Saturday, November 28, 2020

Spine tingling moments - Part three

Back in 2003 I wrote a piece listing 20 'spine tingling moments' - 20 gigs or music experiences that sent a shiver down the spine. The earliest of these was the Sam Cooke/Little Richard show in 1962 and the latest Roscoe Gordon at the Jazz Cafe in 2001. The list was published in the Tales From The Woods magazine at the time and later appeared in the Vinyl Word on January 29 and February 1, 2008. (check 'em out!)

With no live gigs this year my thoughts have turned to choosing 20 spine tinglers that I've experienced since I compiled my original list. Some of these were brilliant at the time, others featured artists who I thought I would never see in my life, while some of the shows were by artists who were at the end of their careers, perhaps past their best but who it was still a privilege to see. So here, again in two parts, are my 'spine tingling moments' over the last 15 or so years.

21. Phil Phillips, Ponderosa Stomp, 2005. This was my first visit to the Stomp, which took place in the old Rock 'n' Bowl that year, and was full of interest and excitement. Link Wray, who died soon afterwards, was incredibly loud, Blowfly was obscene and many others were great, including Scotty Moore, H Bomb Ferguson and Brenton Wood to name but a few. But Phil's act was truly spine tingling. He clearly hadn't performed much in recent years and he sang his big hit 'Sea Of Love' not once but twice. It was somehow magical as he stood stock still and sang his heart out. The audience was mesmerised.

Phil Phillips.

22. Pinetop Perkins, Hopson Plantation, Clarksdale, 2005. Later on in this trip I was in Memphis and rented a car to drive down to the Hopson Plantation, just outside Clarksdale, with Alan Lloyd and Ken Major. The occasion was Pinetop's homecoming: an annual event to mark Pinetop's return to the place where he had been a tractor driver before joining Muddy Waters' band and launching his solo career. There was plenty of blues to be heard, but not by Pinetop himself. He explained that it was a Sunday, and his pa had warned him never to perform on a Sunday. Later we went to Red's juke joint for the first time - the first of many enjoyable visits - and a few years later I stayed in one of the visitor shacks at Hopson's.

Ken Major, me and Pinetop.

23. Allen Toussaint, Jazz Cafe, 2006. I've seen Allen Toussaint many times over the years. Always dapper his piano playing was sublime and of course his song writing was second to none. One of the great memories I have of him was when he guested at Irma Thomas's Lion's Den club in New Orleans in the early nineties, but this show at the Jazz Cafe showed him at his best. He had recently recorded an album with Elvis Costello and was enjoying great success. Relaxed, smooth and always looking very fit, it was a shock when he died suddenly in Madrid whilst on a European tour in 2015.

Allen Toussaint.

24. Ike Turner, Jazz Cafe, 2007. Ike was arrogant, ruthless, probably abusive towards Tina, but he was a true original and a great musician. His recording of  'Rocket 88' is often named as the first true rock and roll record. I saw him a number of times in London, including Ronnie Scott's and Shepherds Bush Empire, where he appeared with Joe Louis Walker. The show at the Jazz Cafe was one of his last as he died later that year, His voice had gone but as a keyboard player and guitarist he was still good and his band was excellent.

Ike Turner.

25. Dion, The Metro, Oxford Street, 2007. I've always been a fan of Dion and his under the radar acoustic show at this small central London venue was quite a surprise. He was promoting his blues album 'Son of Skip James' and showed that he had lost none of his vocal ability. I first saw Dion when he toured with Del Shannon in 1962 and the most recent show I saw was at Viva Las Vegas in 2015. On every occasion he was brilliant but this London show in 2007 was possibly the most memorable of the lot.


26. Betty Harris, Old Point Bar, Algiers, 2008. I had never been to this old fashioned place across the Mississippi in New Orleans before, but it was perfect for this low key show featuring one of the greats of New Orleans soul. 'Cry To Me' and 'Nearer To You were among the numbers that Betty sang to great effect. I was with my late girlfriend Maxine on that trip and we met up there with a group of Aussie DJs, including Pierre Baroni, who I've stayed in touch with ever since (although only meeting in the US). Betty performed at Porretta in 2007, the Stomp in 2008 and the 100 Club in 2017 and was due another visit this year I believe. Hopefully I will see her perform again.

Betty Harris.

27. ? and the Mysterians, Ponderosa Stomp, House of Blues, New Orleans, 2008. Another Stomp and another stellar line up, including Barbara Lynn, William Bell, Ronnie Spector and many others. The highlight though, for me, was Question Mark and the Mysterians, an act I thought I would never get to see live and who appeared so late in the proceedings that many people had gone to bed by then. He and the band were worth staying up for and it was fantastic to hear '96 Tears' performed by the original singer. Question Mark 'dashed around the stage wearing an outrageous orange frilly top' I wrote at the time. A great showman.

Question Mark.

28. Alton Ellis, Jazz Cafe, 2008. The 'king of rock steady' made his final appearance just two months before he died. He looked very smart in a white suit and hat and was fine as he ran through some of back catalogue, but handed over after a while to his son as he left the stage claiming tiredness after a hectic touring schedule. He reappeared for a couple of numbers to great applause but it was clear he wasn't 100 per cent. Great to see him though.

Alton Ellis.

29. Spencer Wiggins, Porretta Soul Festival, 2009. Porretta has never failed to live up to its potential with many appearances by soul singers who I had never seen before. One such was Goldwax recording artists Spencer Wiggins - a singer who I had admired ever since those great Memphis recordings first appeared in the 60s. Spencer's brother Percy, who was also at Porretta, had appeared with the Bo kays at the Stomp the previous year, but it seemed Spencer was only singing gospel these days and seemed unlikely to perform. When he did he showed that his voice was as pure as ever - and his numerous false endings to his classic 'Uptight Good Woman' got the hairs on the back of my neck standing up.

Spencer Wiggins, me and Percy Wiggins.

30. Sharon Jones, Festival Louisianne, Lafayette, 2010. Sharon's exciting stage act made her a must see act when she appeared on the scene with the Dap-Kings in 2002. Her performance at Lafayette was dynamic and energetic and showed that there was much to be enjoyed in the world of retro soul. Later, in 2011, she appeared with fellow Daptone artists Charles Bradley at the Barbican in London, but sadly Sharon died in 2016 and Charles Bradley passed away the following year. So many great artists have passed away including many this year (more of which later).

Sharon Jones.
'Spine tinglers' part four will follow soon.


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