Monday, 22 September 2014

Feature: Soul Trippin' California Style

Written By Murray Cammick

I managed to see about fifteen soul/funk acts in about eight Los Angeles August evenings. They were not "hot August nights", evenings are chilly in LA. The sunny days were largely spent inside vinyl record stores, art galleries or boutique breweries.

~ Have I ever seen anything funkier than Lakeside (five band members, four vocalists) blast through 'All The Way Live' and 'Fantastic Voyage'?

~ Bettye LaVette delivered good humour, funky anecdotes and great voice at the tiny Viper Room.

~ The Gladys Knight voice is still 200% and on her arrival on stage, the lady seated behind me announced - "She just got off the train!" - "From Georgia!". Lots of folks were there for openers Kool and The Gang. They did not disappoint.

~ At 73, Darlene Love, free in a San Francisco Park, still sings 'River Deep, Mountain High' like it should have been hers, and took on 'What's Going On', her Spector classics and a Motown medley. Her opening act, The Monophonics with French guest Ben L'Oncle Soul, were also very fine.

~ The Time's Morris Day with his mirror-carrying assistant schtick is still funny. Mr Day explained that he is still cool and has not had it despite the appearance that he was perspiring. He clarified that "Like fine French champagne, as you take it from the fridge, Mr Day does not sweat, Mr Day condensates!".

~ On a very hot Friday lunchtime, DJ Nu-Mark entertained office workers, food hall diners and school children in the Downtown California Plaza outdoor concert area. After a crowd-pleasing funky set DJ Nu-Mark kept the beat with his toys. I loved the squirrel who sang "And we were Kung Fu fighting" but Maurice the Monkey holding down the beat was the crowd favourite.

~ Angelique Kidjo ruled, fronting the James Brown band (Fred Wesley, Pee Wee Ellis, Clyde Stubblefield, emcee Danny Ray, etc.) for three songs at the Hollywood Bowl - but Aloe Blacc, D'Angelo and Bettye LaVette were also amazingly into it. D'Angelo was the final singer - he has misplaced his six-pack but not his vocal power on uptempo JB songs including 'Soul Power'. Kidjo said that as a child she told her Mum "I'm going to be James Brown when I grow up." Her Mum replied, "No you're not." Kidjo said to the Bowl crowd, "So what am I doing now?" She really got that band working.

~ Low point: Smokey Robinson at the Greek Theatre - he can still sing but his band was lightweight. I don't like 74yr old singers showing their pelvic thrusts and wasting time with a log, competitive sing-a-long to 'Cruising' - and then no encore. Berry Gordy was in the audience. Too much talk and not enough classic Motown tunes. Could do a lot better!

Photos above of the Gladys Knight and Kool and The Gang show at the Hollywood Bowl; and DJ Nu-Mark, the Kung Fu squirrel and Maurice the Monkey at the Downtown California Plaza, both courtesy of Murray Cammick.

Listen to Murray on your radio: 'Land of the Good Groove', 1pm Fridays, 95bFM

This feature taken from Issue #5 of the Soultearoa Shakedown fanzine. The rest of the issue and all of the back issues, can be viewed online here.

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