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We at Soul Corner have the pleasure to welcome a new columnist Dave Thomas from the highly specialized british magazine In the Basement. His expertise and knowledge about Soul Music are very welcome

The 4th International Soul Festival.
At The Winter Gardens Blackpool UK.
Friday 14 June - Sunday 16 June 2019.
Report by Dave Thomas who was with Jean-Claude Morlot.

This years festival held at The Winter Gardens Blackpool clicked into action with 6 rooms of various versions of Soul Music, ranging from Connoisseurs 60’s & 70’s Heaven, Soulful Dance & Modern Soul, through to the biggest Northern & Motown Memories in the Empress Ballroom. The main reason for myself and Jean-Claude’s attendance was to see the live music which was presented in the Empress Ballroom, which is a Grade II listed building, built in 1896, with a capacity to hold a 3,000 audience.

I must say it seemed like there was 3,000 people in the venue to watch the opening act from Memphis, Randy Brown who started his career as lead singer for Stax recording artists The Newcomers along with his brother Bertram, who travelled to Blackpool with his brother to sing backing vocals. Their other brother was William Brown III of the Mad Lads. I was eagerly waiting to see Randy, as I had never seen him before, so it was delight when Randy stepped on stage looking elegant in a mauve coloured suit. Randy only got to do three songs “I Was Blessed (The Day I Found You)”, “I’d Rather Hurt Myself” and “I’m Always In The Mood”. Randy who to me has always been underrated has a great voice and he certainly proved it with his sublime delivery. The Snake Davis Band & The Suspicions & Bertram Brown did a great job behind Randy as he showed the Soul world what a great performer he is, with this great short set. My only complaint is the set should have been longer. Randy is the finest Memphis singer who has never sung at the Porretta Soul Festival in Italy.

Motown Recording artist Brenda Holloway was the next artist and thankfully Brenda did a much longer set. Brenda wearing a reddish dress & gown got her performance under way with “I’ll Be Available”, “When I’m Gone” a personal favourite of mine from Brenda’s catalogue. Brenda who I have seen three times previously was in great voice as she carried on with “He’s My Kind of Fella”, “Every Little Bit Hurts” and “You Kept On Hurting Me”. Brenda seemed to be enjoying herself on stage and with her best Dusty Springfield hairdo, she carried on with “How Many Times Did You Mean It“. The audience were certainly enjoying the show as Brenda launched into “Reconsider” and ending her very good set with “You Made Me So Very Happy“, the record she wrote and which went on to be a massive worldwide hit for Blood Sweat & Tears. Sadly that brought the live music to a close, but it was not the end as the music for dancers in some of the different rooms did not finish until 4.00 am.

Saturday began with the showing of a film in the Opera House , Bang! The Bert Berns Story. I must say it is a very good film with lots of Soul artists appearing in it.



After a half hour break there was an audience with H.B. Barnum, and it was a fascinating incite to his involvement with Aretha Franklin and Capitol Records. H.B. Barnum has worked with Frank Sinatra, Lou Rawls, Etta James, Little Richard, Gladys Knight, Count Basie. He spent 25 years as Aretha Franklin’s music director along with the many artists he has worked with for over 50 years.

Saturday evening seemed like there was even more people in the Empress Ballroom to see the opening act, who is currently a member of The Four Tops, who replaced Levi Stubbs in the Four Tops in 1999, 20 years ago, Ronnie McNeir. “Isn’t She A Pretty Girl” got the show underway, followed by “Hold On To The Dream”. Ronnie wearing a white silky jacket looked good and his melodic honey toned tenor voice was superb on “Just Ask The Lonely” indulging us to something from his Four Tops career. Ronnie had the audience fully with him on his Northern hit song “Sitting In My Class“. At the end of his set Richard Searling came on to admit he forgot to get Ronnie & The band to perform “Wendy Is Gone”, but Ronnie always inventive came back on jump on the keyboards and did an improvised version of “Wendy Is Gone” to great applause from the crowd.

The next artist should have been Prince Phillip Mitchell, but sadly he was unwell a week before the show and was under Doctor’s orders not to travel. Snake Davis did a couple instrumentals of Phillip’s songs “Home Is Where The Heart Is” a song Phillip wrote for Bobby Womack. Snake also did “I’m So Happy” and the words where displayed on screens so everybody could sing along to, I am so glad to report everybody did join in.

Next we got a reprise of the night before with Randy Brown & his brother Bertram on stage to give another performance of his excellent “I’m Always In The Mood”, what can I say it was magical, Randy’s wonderful soulful vocals were great on this Homer Banks/Carl Hampton song. Well done Richard Searling for bringing him back for this wonderful song to be heard again.

Brenda Holloway also came back to perform my favourite of her’s “When I’m Gone” and also her “You Made Me So Very Happy“. Brenda dressed in an all white one piece trouser onesies with big petal like piece on her arms and a curly hair style looked stunning and sounded very good as well.

The final act of the day was Eddie Holman who did a terrific set, Eddie was full of bravado as he stepped on stage in a red shiny suit topped off with a white hat. We had the Northern Soul classic “I Surrender” and “She’s Wanted (In 3 States)” in Eddie’s 40 minute set. Eddie kept telling us how good he was and how he had the best falsetto voice in the world and who am I to argue with Eddie. Eddie who is an ordained Baptist minister and at 73 looks younger, also did “Where I’m Not Wanted” & “This Will Be A Night To Remember”. But I suppose the highlight of the set was “Hey There Lonely Girl”. I have to say it is amazing how he gets that falsetto voice around “I Surrender” & “Hey There Lonely Girl” A terrific set to end the night.

All in all I must thank everybody involved with this years show, as it was a great success, just the one complaint please please give a bit more time to some of the acts, although to be fair it was only Randy Brown’s set that was way to short.

I get in on the act with the stars.

Text and Photos by Dave Thomas

Blackpool est une station balnéaire du Nord de l’Angleterre qui eut son heure de gloire au début du siècle dernier et qui fut dans les années 50/60 un haut lieu du tourisme populaire. Aujourd’hui, la ville possède le charme désuet d’une cité décidée à ne pas mourir alors que son bord de mer ressemble à une fête foraine permanente. C’est au Winter Gardens joyau de l’ère victorienne (construit en 1878, ici en photo) que déroule l’International Soul Festival plus spécialement dédié à la Northern Soul dont il convient, en préambule, de définir le phénomène quasi unique au Monde.

La Soul Music envahit l’Angleterre au milieu des années 60 et se propage dans toutes les classes sociales. C’est dans le Nord, à Manchester et dans ses environs que de jeunes travailleurs issus de la classe populaire se réunissent dans des clubs devenus légendaires comme The Wigan ou The Torch pour danser sur les sons de Motown et de Stax, pour ne citer qu’eux, le Samedi soir jusqy’à l’épuisement. La recherche de disques rares ou obscurs deviendra une compétition et une émulation entre amateurs qui tournera à l’obsession jusqu’à les transformer en plus grands spécialistes mondiaux du genre. Ce phénomène qui perdure encore est abondamment décrit et documenté dans le livre Too Darn Soulful, The Story Of Northern Soul (David Nowell, Robson Books, 1999)

Entrer dans The Winter Gardens est faire un plongeon dans le passé tant au niveau architectural du lieu au style rococo surchargé que par les amateurs venus des quatre coins du Royaume. La moyenne d’âge est élevée et il devient évident que nous sommes en présence de passionnés de la première heure car nous allons vivre “soul” pendant trois jours. De nombreux stands proposent des vinyles rares à des prix prohibitifs (il n’y a pas de singles à moins de 6 euros) ainsi que que nombreux objets “memorabilia”et flyers. Six pistes de danse animées par de célèbres DJs et classées par thèmes (Northern Soul, Soulful Dance, Luxury Modern Soul etc..) sont actives dès tôt dans la journée alors que la nuit venue la salle de concert devient un gigantesque “ballroom” Les DJs sont sur scène et une caméra projette sur un écran les 45 tours tournant sur les platines!

Autre fait marquant, est l’incroyable disponibilité des artistes qui se prêtent sans rechigner aux séances de dédicaces et de photos alors qu’il faut parfois plus d’une heure pour passer à son tour.

Ronnie Mc Neir

En compagnie de Brenda Holloway et de Eddie Holman

Texte : Jean-Claude Morlot
Photos : 1/2/4/5 Jean-Claude Morlot
3/6/7 Courtesy of Dave Thomas

Pick of the week

June 19th, 2019

Great new version of Joe Simon’s classic

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Barbara Blue’s New CD

June 11th, 2019

Fish In Dirty H2O

Barbara Blue (aka “The Queen of Beale Street”, Memphis), nous présente son neuvième album. Celle qui fut produite par Willie Mitchell s’est entourée d’une sorte de « who’s who » des musicien de la scène locale. Nous trouvons donc au sein d’une liste non exhaustive Lester Snell, Will McFarlane, Michael Toles, Lonnie McMillan ainsi que les choristes de Sweet Nectar (Maureen Smith, Lynette McCracklin), sans oublier la présence du batteur Bernard “Pretty” Purdie que l’on ne présente plus. Il devient alors paradoxal que ce CD ait une couleur « blues classique » s ‘éloignant du son légendaire de Memphis. Le titre d’ouverture, My Heart, est la véritable profession de foi d’une chanteuse à la voix âpre et rugueuse (à la manière d’Etta James) qui, à l’occasion de huit compositions (sur treize titres) laisse libre cours à son inspiration. Le morceau titre de l’album est emprunté à Koko Taylor et revisité avec l’apport du rappeur de Memphis Al Kapone (Three6Mafia). Les riffs acérés et incisifs du guitariste Scott Sharrad (ex Greg Allman Band) sur Accidental Theft rivalisent avec ceux de Michael Toles (sur Dr Jesus) et Will McFarlane (sur le funky Gravy Train). Cet album, qui démarre avec une véritable déclaration d’amour au Blues, se termine tout naturellement par un hommage à l’un de ses pionniers avec la reprise de Come On In My Kitchen de Robert Johnson.

Jean-Claude Morlot

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Blackpool Soul Weekender

March 16th, 2019

Porretta Soul Festival 2019

February 11th, 2019

Thursday 18 July
20.00 h

Sweethearts of Australia

Re:Funk feat. Pee Wee Ellis

Scott Sharrard & The Bo-Keys

Don Bryant feat. The Bo-Keys

Friday July 19

J.P. Bimeni & The Black Belts

Leon Beal with Sax Gordon and the Luca Giordano Band with Curtis Salgado

Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra

Khylah B.

Willie West

Annika Chambers

Chilly Bill Rankin & Jerry Jones

Saturday July 20

Curtis Salgado Band

Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra

Georgia Van Etten

LaRhonda Steele

Wee Willie Walker

Wendy Moten

Tony Wilson – The Young James Brown special guest Judy Lei

Sunday July 21

The Sweethearts

Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra

Khylah B.

Willie West

Georgia Van Etten

LaRhonda Steele

Curtis Salgado

Wee Willie Walker

Chilly Bill Rankin & Jerry Jones

Wendy Moten

Tony Wilson

Pick of the Week

October 6th, 2018

Willie Hightower : Out Of The Blue

September 12th, 2018

Out Of The Blue
Ace CDCHD 1520/ CHD 1520 (LP)

Willie Hightower avait fait impression à Porretta l’an passé et plus particulièrement lors de son ultime prestation à Vergato. Tony Rounce de Ace records était présent et ne tarissait pas d’éloges sur ce chanteur qui aussi bizarre que cela puisse paraître demeure injustement méconnu. Ace a acquis en toute logique les droits de ces dix titres produits dans les studios de Muscle Shoals par le presque centenaire, puisque né en 1921, et légendaire Quinton Claunch.
Classicisme absolu d’une soul sudiste intemporelle, nous serions, s’ il n’y avait le copyright, en droit de penser que tout ceci a été enregistré dans les années 70. Sans nostalgie ou revival rétro, ce recueil est composé essentiellement d’une suite de ballades mises en valeur par une vois feutrée, chaleureuse et agréablement soutenue par une section de cuivres aussi discrète qu’efficace.
Du grand art.

Jean-Claude Morlot

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Live At Bravo Caffè
Groove City GC 003 2017

Les fidèles du Porretta Soul Festival connaissent bien Groove City, son leader Fabio Ziveri et sa chanteuse palermitaine charismatique Daria Biancardi. L’excellente idée est d’avoir enregistré un CD live au mythique Bravo Caffè de Bologne car seul ce type de production peut témoigner de la puissance vocale d’une interprète dont la prestation cette année à Porretta fut en tous points remarquable. Il est normal que son répertoire soit composé de reprises de ses aînées féminines et que tout naturellement Aretha Franklin s’y taille la part du lion avec des versions de Dr Feelgood (où elle livre l’étendue de son registre) , Think/Respect, Spirit in The Dark ainsi qu’un Rock Steady particulièrement musclé.
Le recueil ne comporte qu’une seule composition originale Your Queen à laquelle elle a contribué et semble avoir taillée sur mesure.

Jean-Claude Morlot

THE Magic Bones : Shake Your Bones

September 10th, 2018

Shake Your Bones

Agréable découverte que celle de ce groupe italien emmené par le chanteur/guitariste Emiliano De Gli’Innocenti et qui propose un blues/rock brut de décoffrage enregistré « live » en studio. A l’exception de trois titres originaux dont celui de l’album le recueil ne comporte que des reprises dans des versions originales. La voix âpre et rugueuse se prête aisément à celle de Mohair Sam (Charlie Rich), de Te Ni Nee Ni Nu (Slim Harpo) soutenue par les interventions pertinentes de l’harmoniciste Marcos Coll ou encore du classique de Bo Diddley I Can Tell interprété à la manière de Johnny Kidd & The pirates.
Une mention particulière pour sa relecture funky et pour le moins surprenante de la mélodie Imagine de John Lennon soutenue par une slide guitare efficace.
A noter la présence de Guitar Crusher au chant sur le dernier titre I Don’t Need No Doctor.

Jean-Claude Morlot

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