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Queens of American Soul

What a great venue Indigo2 is! I was there for another Ultimate Boogie Night and my expectations were high following the recent Teena Marie gig earlier in the year and the good news announced at this gig is that she is set to return in February 2011.

But back to the Queens of American Soul gig; the Ultimate Boogie DJs already have matters firmly in control for a range of 40-something groovers, like myself ( and a good range either side of that age bracket). The ladies were immaculately and often beautifully turned out – hair, make-up, jewelry, outfit and attitude! The DJs are churning out classic after classic. I am transported back to the eighties and memories of school, college and parties via “Twilight” by Maze, “Gonna Make You Mine” by Loose Ends, “Apparently Nothing”, “Ghetto Heaven”, “Let the Beat Hit ‘Em” and so much more. My feet were shuffling and the crowd around me is clearly ready for proceedings to commence. First up is Jean Carn. She is clearly keen to get started and is on stage before most of the band have got to their instruments. I last saw Jean Carn sometime in the nineties at the Jazz Cafe and I honestly do not think she has aged. She looks amazing in her slinky black dress that all sophisticated ladies must have in their wardrobe and the distinctive voice - soulful with more than a hint of jazz - is as strong as ever on her first song “Was That All It Was”. Jean never disappoints and is adept at developing rapport with her audiences. Delivering her hits “We Got Some Catching Up To Do” and “Love Don’t Love Nobody”, she described them as her Kleenex songs for the women in the house. She also sang “If You Wanna Go Back” and “My Love Don’t Come Easy” from her Philadelphia International Records repertoire. I don’t have to wait long for one of my all time favourite songs “Don’t Let It Go To Your Head” and clearly the audience agrees. Jean takes the opportunity to introduce the London-sourced band led by Billy Osborne on drums. The encores include “Free Love”, “Closer Than Close” and an a cappella snippet of “Early Morning Love”. She leaves the stage and the audience is clearly appreciative of what is just the first installment of the evening. Jean made it clear at several points that she loves London and I remember there were several visits to these shores in the nineties. I hope she makes London a regular stop.

Almost immediately thereafter we have Shirley Jones with three new backing vocalists and a musical director. Shirley is keen to keep the music of the Jones Girls alive and is ably supported by some outstanding backing vocalists – Fonella Baker, Twinky and Chantelle. Her set is shorter than Jean’s and not as polished but she gives us “This Feeling’s Killing Me”, “Children Of The Night”, “Do You Get Enough Love” and another of my all time favourites, “Nights Over Egypt”. The audience is clearly not swayed by her new single but she leaves with “You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else”.

The band have now earned a break and the proceedings are given back to the DJs to build on the atmosphere created earlier and they are more than up to the task. It is not long before Gwen Mc Crae is in the house and you know it. Gwen clearly loves performing live and is able to work the audience. She is sassy, funny, down to earth and real, introducing her songs and keeping the audience sweetened. Her voice is strong, sometimes bluesy, funky when needed, yet always soulful. She delivers on tracks like “All This Love That I’m Giving”, “Girlfriend’s Boyfriend”, “Funky Sensation”, “What Can I Do” and incorporates her ex-husband’s hit, “Rock Me Baby”. Gwen was outstanding and seemed surprised that the audience would have known her hits and warmed to her so easily. She really managed to keep the audience fire burning and that was the song she left us with.

As I raced towards the door for the Tube at almost midnight, it was back to the DJs and more classics. I was sorry I had to leave, but really pleased to have heard some of my favourite classic songs live, to have reminisced, to have danced and to have witnessed female vocalists still delivering their best. Congrats Ultimate Boogie on another great night!

About the Writer
Terry Joe is a London-based has led bands as a vocalist, releasing cds and regularly performing. His favourite artists include Anita Baker, Jill Scott, Al Green, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Ledisi, Nathan Haines, Me'shell NdegeOcello and many more.

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