|This blogpost was first published on April 20th 2011. Now that the Baltic Soul Weekender is no longer with us, let us remember it the way it was....|
...the voice of Bobby Taylor comforts me on my way to the parking place. It’s sad to go, but there will be a next time in 12 Months time....
So what was it like in 2011 I hear you ask. To put it blunt: I had a hell of a time. Yes there were (former) legends aplenty, nice people, the weather was fine and i had enough time to do my moves on the dancefloor. Highlights? Me being recognised and greeted by the stars. No, No, No I kid you not and some of it might be because my hair cut is not very different to that of organiser Dan D. but let me start from the beginning......
Having the day off I could stroll to the cutters in the morning to get rid of my nearly hippy-length mob. I cannot go to an event that big and look ridiculously out of place now, could i? Then it was off to deliver my pre-recorded radio show to the station so it could be aired when I was already strolling to the sweet and sad sounds of Ann Sexton a hundred miles away.
Arriving late Friday afternoon we made our first stroll through the resort to meet some familiar faces from hamburg, from where – like us - most of the guests come from, it’s just an hour’s drive by car.
The record fair was ridiculously small again: three stalls with the same old medium priced soul records of the 70s and 80s that you either already have or detest. But some people seemed to be happy to fill in holes of their philly collection – so that’s fine by me. A short “hello” to Lee from the british sonic wax label where I couldn’t hide my disinterest in the “contemporary” part of his selection – but I promised to get me some of his fine “lost sessions” material by some not-so-well-known artists later…
Now it was time to go to the beach and catch a few rays of sunshine and the sound of “crying” doves looking for any consumable waste from us humans. When two friends showed up with a six-pack in hand, I knew the party has started. And it went a little something like this:
As I am older (though not necessarily: wiser) I decided not to force myself to check every single artist – so here is my selection:
After checking the Pavillon and the northern floor (the personal homebase – just like last year) I catched the last few songs of Gloria Scott who along with Ann Sexton is one of the artists that are performing every year. This time she’s singing on the main stage accompanied by the so-called Baltic Soul Orchestra, which features proper educated musicians. They actually read music from the sheet – even the guitar and bass player (who desperately needs a haircut). Funky? Soulful? Still “Case of too much love makin’” plus some songs from her – still unreleased – second album from 1976 sounded good.
Then we have The Trammps. With the Line-Up of Robert Upchurch (correction - thanks Dan!) with original members Stanley Wade & Harold "DOC" Wade joined by David Dixon, this really was something to behold. And from “Where the happy people go” “Hold Back The Night” (still my favourite) to Judy Garland’s “Zing (went the string of my heart)” to – you guessed it – “Burn Baby Burn” aka “Disco Inferno” the whole tent was bouncing. And when everybody joined in you could almost believe this country is not-Bon-Jovi-Land after all – at least for the moment. Marvelous!
I caught the last few songs by Xantone BlacQ on the small stage (at the “Modern & Nu Soul Floor" which sounded fine and more brazilian then I expected. But i couldn't make out any members of the Amy Winehouse Band involved – as the the Weekenders MC Daniel Dodd Ellis declared. Though i got a mail from Dan informing me that Xan himself was the Bandleader of Amy.
Then it was up to Eli ‘ Paperboy’ Reed who came with a fraction of his band – sans brass section – but burned the place down nevertheless with a harder sound than on his recent tour or Europe (with full band). Rumours have it that he was nervous at the beginning as Joe Bataan stood in the front row. But he later was grooving with the crowd so Eli was happy and relaxed. Speaking of which, Joe waved at me when he was walking through the area. Though I did talk to him when he played a show at the old mojo club four years ago I still doubt that he might have recognised my face.
Ann Sexton is called the “Queen of Baltic Soul” and quite rightly so. She has been on every weekender and will probably continue to do so until we are all gone. Funny thing happened at the shopping mail. As I was walking by, she catches my eye and says something like “oh no, you are here again”. As mentioned before, I do not believe she remembered the few minutes I interviewed her last year but who am I do let this opportunity pass? I was already 2 feet off the ground…
From all the artists performing this year Gwen McCrae is probably the one with the longest chart career; from “Rockin’ Chair way past “Funky Sensation” so she had a lot to choose from. And she did. Pleasing the crowd with these two plus her best tracks “90% of me is you” and – of course – “All this love that I’m giving”. While I liked her performance, I thought the sound really was a bit too rocky. You saw the man on percussion but couldn’t hear him while the drums nearly ruined your ears. And some antics just don’t work for me: when every song is lengthened to enormous proportions by adding “clap your hands” and “sing with me” and so on. Yes, hearing thousands (?) of people sang along to her rendition of “Always on my mind” was quite nice, but somehow it still left a slightly bitter taste.
(Gwen McCrae with the Baltic Soul Orchestra)
I must confess: I missed Roy Ayers. Actually the main act this year I couldn’t really bring myself to leave the northern floor on time and I preferred to be first in line for the Joe Bataan performance.
Speaking of which, I ran into him on Saturday around noon and thanked him for his wonderful performance a few years ago in hamburg. Later I pested him for an autograph and pic at the “meet & greet with the stars”. (I also got a rather ridiculous shot of me with gwen). So at the end of the second day I ran to the smaller venue looking for him when I was confronted with Kaye-Ree.
Not being convinced of the german idea of a soul singer invented by hip record company: somewhat “coloured” or otherwise “exotic” singer try to sound like whitney or Mariah – I was pleasantly surprised. Only aided by an acoustic guitar player and some subtle percussion, her voice really shined. Imagine India Arie without beats and you are close. And with her sparkling eyes she could easily entice every male member of the audience.
Now for the final act this weekend: Joe Bataan: He came, he asked for help (as his piano didn’t work) and conquered. From “Latin Strut” to “My Prayer” he played songs from 1966 onwards (“most of you weren’t even born then"). And although the band was brought together especially for this gig from musicians who live in Europe, they sounded great. (OK, the drummer was a bit LOUD). And Joe was in fine form. So when he finished with a Mambo Version of - really – “Ain’t Nobody” – with the lyrics printed on a piece of paper lying on his piano everybody joined in. A truly classic and phenomenal performance that ended the live part of the weekender.
And we went off to the dancefloor again. Speaking of which – here’s a round up of this years DJs. They were exact the same bunch than last year. I guess the DJ programme is already printed for the next decade…
Everybody was talkin’ about Eddie Piller who played a solid Northern set – amongst others Flame 'N' King "Oh Happy Day" (which i heard at least three times this year) to great cheapos like "Is It Something You've Got" – or it could’ve been Lloyd Attrill who spinned with him. Steve Hobbs resurrected “Everyday Dub” by the Sunburst band from 2004 – the first track I danced to on Friday evening. While Crout and famous Mojo Dancer Perry Louis concentrated on classic northern stuff and Matt Foxx played raunchy R&B, Henry Storch presented the funky side of things on his set on the - appropriately called “Funk & Hip Hop Floor” where German “Superstar” Smudo also played his selection. I missed him though, but saw him briefly at the Saturday get together where he played with a Toshiba PC (damn – does the music business lay so low that he can’t afford a mac book pro anymore? 😉 ) – on record store day of course….
On Sunday morning there is really not much happening at all. I got me three of those fine sonic wax one-siders: Willie Tee, Johnny Moore and and Jerry Plunk and got a nice bargain – thanks again Lee. BUT one of the highlights is the mellow out session at the small pavillon. So after some time at the beach we went back for the last time. Festival Host Dan D. was playing one of my all time favourites: David Ruffin’s “Walk Away From Love” and the Brits showed their formation skills. The (small) dancefloor went Bananas – again. With the “Miracles” – Version by the Songwriter Mark Cappani and Bobby Taylors old chestnut mentioned above I happily boarded the car and went home.
See you next year…
P.S. Sadly the Baltic Soul Weekender will no longer be celebrated. After switching location from the beach to an indoor resort, the organisers have filed for bankruptcy.