Thursday, July 26, 2018

Porretta photo gallery

A final batch of photos, starting with some of people attending the festival. Here are Rod Jolliffe, Dave Carroll, Alan Lloyd, Noah Shaffer and myself, all wearing different Porretta T shirts ranging from the 1997 edition to this year's model.
A trip to the top of the hill outside Porretta is an annual event and this year 12 people took part (Garth Cartwright took the pic).
Here are Rod, Dave, Alan and myself at the Rufus Rhythm and Burgers restaurant, where you can buy burgers named after Rufus Thomas, Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett and other soul stars. 
I don't go in for autographs but I do like to remember events with photos of the artists when I can, so here are a group of photos with the stars. First, Don Bryant.
Here's one with Missy Andersen.
With Booker Brown.
With Lacee.
With Percy Wiggins, Ernie Johnson and Spencer Wiggins.
Swamp Dogg.
John Ellison.
With Charles McNeal and D'Mar.
Terrie Odabi.
Alvon Johnson.
Finally, Wee Willie Walker.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

More photos from Porretta

Here's another set of photos from Porretta, beginning with the great Spencer Wiggins.
Here's brother Percy Wiggins, all in white. 
Here are Percy, Spencer and Wee Willie Walker together.
This is the one and only Swamp Dogg.
Kicking off proceedings on the first night was Daria Biancardi with Groove City.
Appearing several times during the festival, this is boogie woogie piano player Mitch Woods.
Opening up proceedings on the Friday was blues man Chris Cain.
This is guitarist Alvon Johnson, walking amongst the audience, who played Let's Straighten It Out on three nights.
Leader of the Bo-Keys, who backed Don Bryant, Scott Bomar.
Keyboardist with the Bo-Keys this is Archie Turner.
One of Anthony Paule's backing singers, who sang several songs solo, this is Sandy Griffith.
Here is Missy Andersen singing out side the town hall in Vergato.
Wee Willie Walker and Terrie Odabi shared a duet on Lovey Dovey.
Here is drummer D'Mar leaping over his drum kit.
Here's another photo of Lacee.
Here are Anthony Paule and D'Mar at the end of the show in Vergato.
D'Mar led the horn section on a second line parade at Vergato. Here are sax men Charles McNeal and Sax Gordon.
Here's the man who made it all possible Graziano Uliani at the Helvetia Hotel.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

More on Porretta plus photos

Sunday at Porretta always features a revue of most of the acts taking part and this year was no exception. But first I went to a screening of a documentary film called A Soul Journey, by Marco Della Fonte, which told the story of the festival from its inception over 30 years ago, when Graziano Uliani. the man who has masterminded it ever since, invited Solomon Burke to Porretta. There were interviews with Graziano and long time MC Rick Hutton, and with some of the stars of recent years, including Sugar Pie DeSanto, Toni Green, Otis Clay and David Hudson, along with footage from down the years, not forgetting Solomon and, of course, Rufus Thomas, after whom the auditorium is named.. A fascinating film and a fitting tribute to Graziano's superb efforts.
Sunday night itself was very disciplined, with each artist limited to two songs each. Don Bryant and the Bo-Keys had gone by this time, but everyone else took part, the highlights being John Ellison, wearing what looked like purple leopard print pyjamas. a duet by Wee Willie Walker and Terrie Odabi on Lovey Dovey, more excellent soul from Terrie (including Nine Simone's Funkier Than A Mosquito's Tweeter), Booker Brown, Lacee, Ernie Johnson. Missy Andersen and Wee Willie Walker. There was a rather poignant and sad moment when Spencer Wiggins was brought to the stage and stood side on to the audience, apparently unaware which way to face. It took Wee Willie to come on and point him in the right direction. Brother Percy also sang a couple of numbers, as did Swamp Dogg. Also, bizarrely, a Japanese singer whose name I didn't catch. Finally all the artists came on stage for a group version of Bring It On Home To Me.
This year Alan and I stayed an extra day for a free concert on Monday night in the small town of Vergato, a few miles north of Porretta. Many of the acts performed in a piazza in the centre of town and there were some new numbers on show, including Make Me Yours and Precious Precious by the excellent Lacee, plus more blistering soul from Ernie Johnson. Mitch Woods did a couple of numbers and there was one each from Sax Gordon, Sandy Griffith, Larry Batiste and Alvon Johnson. Missy Andersen sang a couple of songs, as did Percy Wiggins, who sang brother Spencer's Lonely Man as something of a tribute, I guess, as Spencer did not appear. Wee Willie Walker did four numbers before D'Mar took charge, leaping over his drum kit, drumming on the stage supports and leading the horn section in a second line around the audience. It was a joyous end to what has been another exceptional festival. Thank you Mr Uliani! And Anthony Paule for leading such a first rate band and backing the singers so brilliantly.
Now that I am home I will be adding quite a few photos from the trip, beginning, this time, with the artists who, in my opinion, were the stars of the weekend (although all of them deserve credit for their superb efforts). The photo above shows the great Don Bryant, who with the Bo-Keys, performed a wonderful set. Pictured below is Terrie Odabi, who showed again what a superb talent she is.
Here is the excellent southern soul artist Ernie Johnson.
This is another southern soul star of the future, Lacee.
Contributing as much as anyone to the weekend's success was Wee Willie Walker.
Another excellent, and exciting, performer - John Ellison.
Missy Andersen was another female singer who made a good impression.
Finally, in this segment, here's Booker Brown, who was a revelation. More photos will follow soon.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Don Bryant's masterclass lights up Porretta

Saturday night is always a full house at Porretta and last night's show was no exception. It was an evening that began brilliantly, stalled in the middle and took off again towards the end. The brilliance came courtesy of Don Bryant, backed by the Bo-Keys, who gave a masterclass in high class soul singing. Don's voice remains in superb condition and it was pure delight listening to numbers such as Nickel and a Nail, Something About You, How Do I Get There and One Ain't Enough and Two's Too Many. Don's was the uncredited voice on Willie Mitchell's Everything's Gonna Be Alright and That Driving Beat and the Bo-keys, led expertly by Scott Bomar, let rip on both. Other excellent numbers included Am I Wasting My Time, I Die A Little Each Day and What Kind Of Love Is This and Don finished with Don't Turn Your Back On Me, from his recent album, and, of course, I Can't Stand The Rain. A great set, very nearly up to the standard of the show at Ronnie Scott's last year.
The Anthony Paule band took the stage for the rest of the show and things started to go flat, although through no fault of their own. Mitch Woods' piano spot, including House Of Blue Lights, didn't quite take off and numbers by Sax Gordon and backing singer Sandy Griffith took up valuable time, good though they were. An unannounced number by guitarist Alvon Johnson (Let's Straighten It Out)', including a tour of the audience, seemed superfluous as well, although he looked the part. Percy Wiggins appeared next, dressed entirely in white, including hat, shoes and, rather bizarrely, gloves. This was his third visit to Porretta and although his voice is good, his stage act is less so. Eight extended numbers, including Look What I've Done To My Baby, Book Of Memories, Never Gonna Find Me A Girl, Bring It On Home To Me and Love And Happiness, was too many. Brother Spencer then came to the stage, accompanied by Wee Willie Walker, and the three of them sang I Need A Lot Of Loving Every Day. Spencer looked decidedly frail but his voice remained pretty strong on Lonely Man, Uptight Good Woman (with the customary five false endings), What Do You Think About My Baby and Double Loving.
Next up was Swamp Dogg and we expected great things but it was not to be. He seemed a little off the pace on his slightly surreal material, including Synthetic World, Total Destruction Of Your Mind, Lover Man and Mama's Baby - Daddy's Maybe. He ended his set with Gotta Get A  Message To You, with much hand shaking in the audience, but seemed surprised when MC Rick Hutton pulled him off. 'Have I Gone Past My Time?' he asked. The answer, it seemed, was yes. The show livened up with the next act, a dynamic young southern soul singer called Lacee from Memphis. Wearing a sparkly cat suit, she came across well on Juke Joint Jump, Dr Feelgood, one of her self composed songs and Try A Little Tenderness. I would like to see her in a down home juke joint in the south some time. The final act of a very long night was Ernie Johnson, another singer in the southern soul mould, who wore an outrageous bright red suit and cap. He was full of life and excellent on numbers such as Bad Case Of Nothing But The Blues, If My Love Can't Make You Stay Move Along, You're Gonna Miss Me, Party Time and finally Otis's Dreams To Remember. Overall, it was an uneven night, made special by  Don Bryant and, to an extent, the final two acts. A night to remember none the less, if only for its post 2.30 finish.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Wonderful soul night at Porretta

Porretta Soul Festival's reputation as the world's best of its kind was borne out by a wonderful night of great music on Friday. Things got off to a slow start with a blues set by guitarist Chris Cain and the Luca Giordano Band plus Sax Gordon. Chris was fine on numbers such as Movin' Back To Memphis and B B King's Sweet 16, but it wasn't soul and that's what we had come to hear.
When the Anthony Paule Band took to the stage things moved to a higher level. Soul Finger was followed by a good vocal number by Sax Gordon and two by backing singer Larry Batiste, a big man in a hat, including Al Green's Let's Stay Together. Then the first of five excellent soul acts took to the stage, Detroit based Booker Brown. Despite his origins he is very much a southern soul guy, with a voice reminiscent of Bobby Womack and an excellent stage act. Wearing a naval cap, his wardrobe began with a white jacket, reducing to a black and gold waistcoat before stripping to his shirt. Numbers included Love Is Blind But The Neighbors Aren't, Bobby Bland's I Take Good Care Of You, Never Too Much and the up tempo Stirr It Up. Next up was Missy Andersen, a slim young lady in a leopard print dress, who began a little uncertainly with O V Wright's Ace Of Spades. She grew in confidence with Stand By Me, Tell Mama, a good version of It's Alright, What Kind Of Man, and If You Loved Me Like You Said before finishing with Higher And Higher.
After a break the music went up a further gear with the superlative Wee Willie Walker, a diminutive deep soul man who first recorded for Goldwax in the sixties. He held the audience spellbound with I Ain't Gonna Cheat On You No More, Second Chance, the Goldwax track There Goes My Used To Be and Hate Take A Holiday. After A While and If Only, from his latest album, were intense and beautiful, as was Mable John's Your GoodThing Is About To End and Look What You've Done To Me. A great act, which was followed by the now familiar acrobatics of drummer D'Mar (Derrick Martin), who leaped over his drum kit and rampaged around the audience playing anything he could lay his drum sticks on.
The mood changed instantly with the arrival on stage of Oakland based Terrie Odabi, who sang Wade In The Water very quietly at first, before building to a dramatic climax. Terrie was one of the hits of last year's festival despite not being listed to appear, and this time she showed just how good she really is. Her set ranged from the jazzy Live My Life to Denise Lasalle's raunchy Man Sized Job, a brilliant and dramatic version of You're Gonna Make Me Cry, the social comment of Gentrification Blues and Ben E King's Don't Play That Song. This was a super set, confirming Terrie as a great soul singer. The final act of the evening was John Ellison, formerly of the Soul Brothers Six. I thought he might have peaked too soon by opening with his two biggest hits, Some Kind Of Wonderful and I Want To Thank You Baby, but I was wrong as the rest of his set was excellent and varied. He is a tall man with a high voice who strides across the stage, initially wearing a cloak, dark glasses and a black head band, and he certainly pleased the audience with I'll Be Loving You, the dramatic What Can You Do When You Ain't Got Nobody, the disco flavoured Love Line (involving audience members forming lines on stage), the love song Simply I Love You, It's Your Lips and finally If I Had Just One Wish. A great end to a wonderful evening and there's still more great artists to come.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Porretta time again

Once again I'm back in the usually sleepy Italian spa town of Porretta Terme for the annual soul festival, which never fails at attract great soul acts. This time we visited Siena on the way, along with San Gimignano, with its many medieval towers, and a stay with my friend Nick in Bologna. The weather is hot so far and the music looks pretty hot too.
The first evening always features Italian bands and the first of these, a seven piece outfit called Groove City were pretty good. They were here three years ago but this time they featured a different female singer by the name of Daria Biancardi. She is very popular with the locals and I can understand why as she possesses a powerful voice and a good stage act. She began with 'LoveThe One You're With' and other songs included 'Damn Your Eyes ', 'Spirit In The Dark' and a lively version of 'Son Of A Preacher Man'. She was loud but effective. After a duet with regular MC Rick Hutton, she gave way to piano player Mitch Woods, who has recently recorded an album with Van Morrisson, Taj Mahal and others. His set comprised jump blues and boogie woogie numbers, including 'Solid Gold Cadillac', 'Down Boy Down', the Professor Longhair styled 'Mojo Mambo' and 'Boogie  Woogie Barbecue'. A solid set and a good way to kick off the festival. The second act, the JBees, turned out to be a glitzy disco act and didn't appeal, but the best of this superb festival is yet to come.  More reports and photos will appear shortly.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Emmett Till case reopened

News that the Emmett Till case is to be reopened 63 years after the murder took place reminded me of the 2014 visit that Dave Carroll and I made to the museum dedicated to his memory in the hamlet of Glendora, Mississippi.
Emmett Till's death was one of the sparks that lit the Civil Rights campaign in the US. He was a 14 year African American boy from Chicago who was visiting relatives in the south. He allegedly whistled at a white woman in the nearby village of Money and as a result was murdered and thrown off a nearby bridge by two white men. His mutilated body was laid in an open casket when it was recovered. An all white jury found the two suspects not guilty of Emmett's murder, but they subsequently admitted to a magazine that they had committed the murder.
Glendora is, like so many villages in rural Mississippi, a run down place with many derelict buildings. It was the home town of Sonny Boy Williamson, who often played there. The Emmett Till Historic Intrepid Center (ETHIC), based in a former cotton gin, is little publicised, or visited. When we arrived it was closed and deserted and we were about to leave when a lady drove up at fast speed in a battered car. Word must have got around that there were visitors there. She opened up and we had a good look around the museum, which told the story of the murder, the racist attitudes that prevailed (and still prevail) in the south, and information about the civil rights movement.
Now, it seems that the Department of Justice has reopened the 1955 case following claims in a book that the woman at the centre of the wolf whistling incident admitted in 2008 that she had lied.
Here are some photos taken on our visit, none of which have appeared in The Vinyl Word before.
Here are a couple taken at the remains of Bryant's Grocery in Money, where the alleged whistling offence took place. Photos were taken in 2015.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Candi Staton shows she is 'Unstoppable'

Candi Staton has a new album out shortly called 'Unstoppable'. Judging by last night's show at the Omeara in London (a new venue for me, but an intimate one which has much to commend it), it's a very apt title, because, at the age of 78, Candi still has energy to spare, as well as a great voice and vibrant personality.
I missed the first couple of numbers as I was watching England do the unthinkable by actually winning a penalty shoot out, but I gather they were 'Honest I Do' and the Bee Gees' 'Nights on Broadway'. When I arrived Candi was going through some of her earlier recordings from her time at Fame, with her excellent version of Tammy Wynette's 'Stand By Your Man', followed by 'I'd Rather Be An Old Man's Sweetheart (Than A Young Man's Fool)'. It was immediately clear that we were in for something special. Candi has a terrific personality and it shone through. Backed by her regular band, which was excellent, as were her backing singers, she moved on to two numbers from the new album - the bluesy 'I Fooled You (Didn't I)' and Patti Smith's 'People Have The Power'.
Back in the early seventies, Candi had great success with a cover of 'In The Ghetto', a song, she recalled, that she performed with Elvis at the time. From that point onwards it was dance time, something the youngish crowd took to enthusiastically, initially with a good take on 'Suspicious Minds'. Then it was on to an extended version of her disco classic 'Young Hearts Run Free', with hints of gospel ('This Little Light Of Mine') thrown in, during which she introduced members of the band. The dance favourite 'You Got The Love' inevitably got the crowd going and by this time you could feel the love - both from Candi and from the adoring audience. Candi finished with a brief stab at Unstoppable - 'it's what I'm trying to be', she said. On this form Candi certainly is