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Newsletter 2nd April 2006

Site Statistics

I launched the site early in February and the past month has seen continued success - the number of visitors more than doubled from 2000 to 4838, with 767 unique sites visiting. The average daily count nearly trebled from 55 to 153, with a current maximum of 315 visitors on one day in the month. Thank you for the e-mails and very positive comments made to me personally at the venues I've attended. Clearly, I have stumbled on a popular formula. Glad you enjoy my endeavours as much as I enjoy taking the piccies and putting together the site.

Prestatyn Weekender

In looking back at the month's events, the highlight is very clearly the Soul weekender held at Prestatyn. It's 5 years since the first one was held and in that time, attendances have grown from around 800 to this year's total of around 3,200. It's hardly surprising, as the promoters have found a winning formula - a choice of venues offering alternatives in music all under one roof, quality dance floors in the Northern and Modern rooms, quality guests making live performances, excellent service at the bar and the opportunity to meet thousands of like-minded fans.

The event had been built up for me by my friends as THE weekender in the soul calendar and in that situation, it's easy to be disappointed. But I need not have feared, as the event even surpassed those expectations. To those of you who were there, you will know what I mean, to those who didn't make it, for heavens' sakes, ring Pontins (0870 6010473) - the dates are Friday 16th to Mon 19 March - and book for next year. I checked with Pontins today and there is still accommodation available.

Kim Weston, Jackie Ross and Syl Johnson in concert

Live music is always something special and the two concerts I attended last month left me with that feeling of a real high. I'd seen Kim live last year at Hemsby and again, she showed what a consummate professional she is, with great stage presence, a superb back catalogue of music going back over 40 years and a wonderful voice.

Jackie and Syl have not enjoyed Kim's widespread success. That didn't mean they didn't have their fans and it emphasised to me how much of a lottery is this thing called show business. They both put out performances which were absolutely scintillating.

Having been to a few concerts over the last 6 months or so, what has struck me has been how appreciative the performers have been of the tremendous reception they have received from their audiences. I'm sure it's inspired them in their performances. We all need to feel wanted and they must have left these shores on as big a high as did their audiences.

Remember, we're all getting older and these performers are not going to be around forever - hardly a month goes by without yet another soul personality going to that great soul gig in the sky. Go to see them while you can, you will feel great after their performances and you'll make them happy that someone appreciated their music.

My current fave plays

Those of you who know me, will know that I'm a great lover of oldies, typically the well-played tracks on the scene. However, by way of something different, I thought I'd share with you half a dozen of the lesser known tracks that I'm currently playing. Not in any order:

1. Reatha Reese - Only Lies (Dot Records, also on Goldmine CD, "Allnighter Vol 1", GSCD141)
First heard this a few weeks back at Lowton and again at Prestatyn. Absolutely stunning stomper, from around 1964. Really deserves more success on the scene, but quite difficult to get hold of on vinyl.

2. Sammy Turner - Raincoat in the River (flipside of Falling) - (Big Top Records , also on Collectables CD, "Lavender Blue: The Very Best of Sammy Turner", catalogue number 6090)
First heard this in January at Ramsbottom Cricket Club. Dating back to around 1961, this has a very catchy string arrangement, very much in the style of Dean Barlow's "Third Window From The Right". Produced by my musical hero, Phil Spector, who also produced the Ronettes and Crystals, not forgetting the Righteous Brothers "(You've Lost) That Lovin' Feeling" and Ike and Tina Turner's "River Deep Mountain High". Lovely track, again deserving more success but it's not in a style that's in vogue on the scene at the moment.

3. HB Barnum - It Hurts Too Much To Cry (RCA Victor, also on Kent CD "Rare Collectable And Soulful - Vol. 1", CDKEND 141)
Dating back to 1962, old style big orchestral backing number, love this track.

4 and 5. Jackie Ross - Trust In Me and I Dig His Style (Chess, on deleted Chess CD "Full Bloom" UMD80560)
Cut in 1964, featuring the delightful Jackie Ross, who hit big time in the States with "Selfish One" - Jackie has a very unusual voice, high in register and haunting in quality. Both are very catchy songs with great backing. Wonderful stuff!

6. Wilson Pickett - Let Me be Your Boy (Correc-Tone and Cub, also on Altantic/WEA CD, "A Man and a Half: The Best of Wilson Pickett", 70287)
The recently departed "Wicked" Pickett on one of his early solo efforts after leaving the Falcons. Recorded in 1962, with gorgeous vocal backing by the then unknown Supremes, it has a piano middle 8 to die for.

Cala Gran is dead - long live Blackpool

Yes, Cala Gran is dead! Now replaced by the Togetherness Weekender at Blackpool Tower Ballroom on 10th and 11th November 2006. Tickets 24.90 from Goldsoul. You need to make your own accommodation arrangements. No live acts but 3 dance floors, sounds good to me!

Soul radio

Richard Searling's Soul Sauce on smoothfm on 100.4FM (Saturday 6-9pm UK time) is essential listening for all serious soul fans with an across the board mix, the last hour being northern. For those in fringe reception areas, it is available on Sky radio channel 0128 or on the internet.

Another of my regular must hear shows is Mark Bicknall's "Rhythm and Soul Shack" show on Solar Radio (Sundays 8-10pm) - it can be heard on Sky radio channel 0129 or on the internet.

A show I've been listening to over the last couple of years is Mary Fox's Northern & Motown Experience on BBC Radio Stoke (Friday 7-9pm) on 94.6FM in the Stoke area. For those outside the reception area, it is available on the internet - click the "Listen Live" link under the BBC Local radio logo. If you aren't able to listen to her show live, you can always catch up by using the BBC's Audio on Demand service which lets you listen again to the show for a week after the original broadcast. Click on this link for more information.

Finally, a show with a difference. Every Sunday night, Scooter Magruder does his "Sunday Night Train" show on WBIG in Washington, DC, USA. This show is aired Sunday night 10pm-2am Eastern Time, Monday morning 3-7 am UK Time) and is an eclectic mix of (mainly 50s and 60s with some early 70s) R&B, Soul and Doo Wop. Scooter is a very knowledgeable guy who runs a record store - he doesn't just play the obvious stuff, he will also play some great B sides and the local hits of yesteryear - more info on him and the show at this link. His show is streamed on the net - follow the "Listen Live" link from the main page or click on this link - you will need to register but after that you just sign in with your username and password. I set my PC to record the show while I'm asleep on Sunday nights and listen to it during the week. My week wouldn't be complete without it!

"Dancin' All Nite" Northern Soul Exhibition

Still on (till May 25th), see the details in the March newsletter.

Anyway, that's it for now, see you around on the scene. If you see me snapping at your venue, come over and say "Hi"! Keep on keepin' on!

Soulfully yours,

Al the Soulman


All images are copyright 2006, Alan Milewczyk (Al's Soul Shack)