Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Classic vinyl

Here are some 45s that I bought as part of a collection over the weekend.











Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bad Motherfucker

Andre Williams at the Luminaire last night was an assault on the eardrums. His backing band Flash Express was a fairly basic three chord punk band, and boy were they loud. They drowned out much of what Andre was singing. The audience, though, thoroughly enjoyed it. They were mostly ex punks now approaching middle age, with a few trendy younger guys and girls dotted around - not the sort of audience I usually mingle with.
Andre looked dapper in a smart military style jacket, black hat and peach trousers and was clearly enjoying himself. It was a bit weird hearing a 71 year old singing about Jailbait, and the twinkle in his eye suggested he wouldn't mind a taste. He has been called Mr Rhythm and the Black Godfather over the years but Bad Motherfucker - the title of a pretty effective piece of punk rock - probably sums him up. Of his early bluesy doowop stuff there were brief but potent versions of Jailbait and Bacon Fat, but otherwise it was largely unknown territory to me. Half deafened, I and three other Woodies left the gig to the sound of Pussy Stank to find sanctuary in the Black Lion pub nearby. Nice pub by the way.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Betty Harris at Porretta

Here is Betty singing Nearer To You at Porretta 2007.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Andre Williams - doowop or sleaze?




I have a ticket to see Andre Williams at the Luminaire next week but it's fair to say that I've no idea what to expect. He's best known to me for his 50s doowop classics such as Jail Bait and Bacon Fat, and he's also the writer of 60s hits such as Shake a Tailfeather and Twine Time. When he performed at Utrecht with the El Dorados a few years ago it was, as you might expect, a doowop set. Looking true to his Black Godfather nickname, in a dark suit and hat, he came across strongly.

But he seems to be better known in recent years as the father of sleaze rock, as a result of an album called Silky. He has been compared with Dolemite, also known as Rudy Ray Moore, who I saw performing his pimp character at the Ponderosa Stomp a few years ago. His act comprised a torrent of sexist abuse and it didn't go down well with some of the audience. I wonder if Andre will follow the same route or stick to his doowop roots. I know which I would prefer.

We raised a glass at the blues contemptibles meet up last night to Freddie Bell of the Bellboys, who has died. Freddie is best remembered for Giddy Up a Ding Dong, one the more inane song titles of the 50s. In truth he was little more that a footnote to the history of rock and roll but he was one of the first US acts to tour the UK, when he co-starred on a package tour with Tommy Steele.

Also dead is prankster Jeremy Beadle. I despised his lowest common demoninator TV shows but I have to admit that I found him an civilised and charming man when I met him at my son's school fete in Barnet a few years ago.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Toni Green live at Porretta 2007

Now that I've discovered that I can upload movie clips to the blog, here is the wonderful Toni Green singing At Last at Porretta 2007. Enjoy!

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Margaret Lewis live at the 100 Club

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Friday, February 01, 2008

20 spine tingling moments - part 2

Continuing my article from Tales From The Woods in 2003:
11. Clarence Carter, Grant Street Dancehall, Lafayette, 1995. Three of us had driven over from Houston on our way to New Orleans. There was Mr Angry (then better known as John Howard), Jonathan Coke-Smyth and myself, and we hit Lafayette just as the Louisiana Cajun Festival was winding down. That evening Clarence Carter was playing at the local venue (where we later saw Jimmy Vaughan, the Band of Gold and others) and the place was full of locals who mostly wanted to hear and dance to his recent hit 'Strokin'. Clarence was fantastic and his deep and dirty laugh reverberated around the hall. It was a great way to start a New Orleans trip. What's more I got chatting to a sexy Peruvian lady by the name of Betty who helped to make the trip even more memorable than usual.
12. Cookie and the Cupcakes, Blues Estafette, Utrecht, 1995. I don't think Utrecht ever failed to deliver in terms of excellent acts barely known outside of a small circle of music obsessives. But here was a real bonus - the recently reformed swamp pop kings complete with Little Alfred performing for the first time ever in Europe. They combined to produce a sound that was pure Louisiana swamp, complete with alligators and crawfish - and absolutely spine tingling. I saw them the following year at Jazzfest and once again they were amazing, but now they are no more - greatly missed.
13. Johnny Adams, 100 Club, London, 1996. There used to be many great shows at the 100 Club, but now there's little to stir an interest. The performance by the Tan Canary was one of the best, although others by the likes of Don and Dewey, Richard Berry and Doris Troy also stand out in the memory. Johnny Adams had a fantastic voice and his death robbed us of a great talent. I saw him in New Orleans many times, including a great show at Irma's Lion's Den club and an equally impressive one at the Rock and Bowl. I last saw him perform at the Handy Awards in Memphis a few months before his demise and he sang like a bird right up to his last days.
14. Texas Tornados, Tipitina's, New Orleans, 1997. I've always loved Doug Sahm but his musical union as the Texas Tornados with Augie Meyer, Flaco Jimenez and Freddy Fender both on record and live was really special. They played the Town and Country Club in the early nineties and were great, but the show at the legendary Tipitina's was particularly memorable as it featured a guest appearance by Roy Head of 'Treat Her Right' fame. A very long, hot. sticky and quite brilliant evening.
15. James Carr, Blackheath Concert Hall, 1997. I first became aware of Goldwax records via The Ovations' fantastic Sam Cooke tribute 'It's Wonderful to be in love' in 1965. I quickly cottoned on to their other great soul stars James Carr and Spencer Wiggins and managed to get a copy of Carr's Stateside LP a few years later. He has been described as the world's greatest soul singer and it's hard to argue with that assessment. But it looked as though we would never have an opportunity to see him perform live as a result of his insecurities and health problems. But here at last was James Carr on stage in the UK, dressed in a sober brown suit and putting 110 per cent effort into every note. The audience willed him to continue and continue he did - a blindingly soul drenched performance.
16. Solomon Burke, Porretta Soul Festival, 1998. Like Utrecht, Porretta never fails to stir the soul and the galaxy of southern soul greats who have performed in this normally sleepy Italian mountain town is truly impressive. The biggest star by far was Solomon Burke - at least by weight - and he certainly didn't disappoint, wearing what appeared to be a purple tent. Burke's amazing voice is as strong as ever and, along with Wilson Pickett, he is the most important 60s Stax/Atlantic soul singer still performing (now no more in Pickett's case sadly). It was a privilege to see him in the flesh - all 2o stones of it.
17. The Box Tops, World Trade Centre, New York, 1999. Alex Chilton and the Box Tops made some of the best pop records of the 60s in Memphis, so when on a trip to the Big Apple I saw that they had reformed and were playing for free outside the World Trade Centre I just had to go along. It wasn't a great set, but it was enjoyable and an hour of pure nostalgia. I gazed up at the twin towers and into a jet black sky as I listened to 'The Letter' and their other hits, never imagining that the buildings would disappear just two years later.
18. Willie Mitchell, Royal Studios, Memphis, 1999. This wasn't a gig but a chance visit by John Howard and myself when we were visiting the Beale Street festival and the Handy Awards, having driven up from New Orleans via Tupelo. We walked into the famous studios where the Hi sound was created and who should be at the front desk but Willie Mitchell himself. He welcomed us like old friends and got former Mad Lad William Brown to show us round. As we were leaving Otis Clay with Scott Billington from Black Top records walked in for a recording session.
19. Al Green, North Sea festival, 2000. After Sam and Otis passed away it was Al Green who took up the mantle as my favourite soul singer. Having seen him a few times in the past when he had concentrated on gospel rather than his hits I was not sure what to expect, but to be on the safe side I bagged my place at the very front of the stage a good hour before he was due to perform. I wasn't disappointed. He was brilliant, running through all his greatest songs, tossing roses to the audience and generally acting like the superstar he undoubtedly is. The previous year I visited his church in Memphis and sat through a lengthy service waiting for him to appear. After about two and a half hours there was an announcement saying he wouldn't be attending - disappointing but good for the soul I suppose.
20. Roscoe Gordon, Jazz Cafe, 2001. Without Roscoe Gordon there might never have been any ska music or even reggae, as there is no doubt that the shuffling rhythm of records like 'No More Doggin' and 'Just a Little Bit' was an inspiration to young Jamaicans in the late fifties and early sixties. By the time he played the Jazz Cafe (one of a wonderful run of shows by the likes of Mary Love and William Bell) he was probably past his best, but the music and the infectious rhythm lifted the show well above the mundane into something truly memorable.
Well, that's my top 20 and I haven't even found room for greats like Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley. Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown, Bobby Bland, B B King, Bobby Womack, Edwin Starr, Etta James and Wilson Pickett, not forgetting Ike Turner's great show at Ronnie Scott's.



Footnote: In retrospect I should have included Ike Turner's brilliant show at Ronnie's and there were many others that missed the cut very narrowly. Of the shows I've seen since 2003 I would pick out Phil Philips at the Ponderosa Stomp and Dion at the Metro as spine tingling moments, but there have been quite a few others.