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Soul scene is revisited

Nostalgia is at the fore this week with a return to the 1970s UK soul scene when the Soul Britannia All-Stars take to the stage in Hall One of The Sage Gateshead, tomorrow night.

Nostalgia is at the fore this week with a return to the 1970s UK soul scene when the Soul Britannia All-Stars take to the stage in Hall One of The Sage Gateshead, tomorrow night.

The bill features half a dozen acts with roots in that era and covers the fertile soul ground between jazz, funk, reggae and blues.

The Brixton octet Cymande fuse Caribbean-African dub and funk rhythms so successfully that their sound has been sampled by more recent acts like the Fugees and De La Soul.

The band name, incidentally, comes from Calypso, (by way of South America), and means love/peace. Understandable, really, with half of the band being Jamaican-born Londoners, the other half are originally from Guyana on the North East tip of South America.

Among the women on the bill is a familiar name with an interesting link to Newcastle. Madeline Bell, the lady in question, has a career which is as comprehensive as it is enduring.

Born Madeline Bell Brodus in Newark, New Jersey, she was singing in a gospel group, the Glovertone, as a 16-year-old. Then came the Black Nativity theatre production which brought her to the UK and she decided that London was where she wanted to stay.

Madeline embarked on a cabaret tour on 1964 and her first show was at La Dolce Vita, a night club in the city's Low Friar Street , with Lionel Blair and Les Dawson also on the bill.

She went on to record/perform with some of the era's musical royalty, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones, Cliff Richard, Joe Cocker, Scott Walker, Elton John, and dozens more.

Her involvement with the group Blue Mink produced significant commercial success which extended well beyond the UK. One little-known fact, though, was her song-writing efforts with a pre-Led Zeppelin John Paul Jones.

The line-up also includes the distinctive pop-soul voice of Linda Lewis and the jazz-rock-soul talents of Carol Grimes.

Northern soul singer Root Jackson, (of Root & Jenny fame), and funk outfit Gonzalez, complete the bill. Ticket info on (0191) 433 4661.

Also tomorrow night the Cluny in Newcastle has a double helping of acoustic blues when witty and nimble-fingered Californian Doug MacLeod is joined by North Yorkshire resident and ex-Notting Hillbilly, Steve Phillips.

A hallmark of the Cluny is the diversity of music on offer. This eclecticism is demonstrated by a quick look ahead to some imminent arrivals. On Wednesday, the Dutch progressive-rock quartet Focus play the Ouseburn venue. The band includes Niels van der Steenhaven in the guitar role once occupied by Jan Akkerman. The next night, Irish combo the Frank and Walters bring their brand of indie-roots rock.

A week later, on March 15, there is a return visit for one of the most idiosyncratic and popular artists of the last 20 years or so, John Otway.

His anarchic charm ensures that the words boring and John Otway never appear in the same sentence and it is a measure of his popularity that he features in a recent BBC lyric top 10. His song Beware Of The Flowers made No 7, just behind the Beatles, Queen and Robbie Williams.

The last of the Women in Jazz series pitches versatile violinist Emma Fisk into the fray with twin-guitar and bass in the quartet that is Djangology at Heaton's Corner House next Thursday.

While the content is quite specific, ie. the Hot Club de France recordings of Django Reinhardt, members of the band are not confined by the music of that era.

Emma, for example, was a long-time member of rock band The Rye, and is also part of another happening unit, Field Music.

Guitarist Dave Harris similarly dons Telecaster to play in a country-band called Blue Horizon. Tickets on 0191 265 9602.

Staying to the east the city, Wallsend's Buddle Arts Centre has an interesting double bill next Friday. The venue recently celebrated 25 years of live music not quite as long as the Caffrey brothers have been performing.

The Caffs play their home-town gig next Friday but have some exotic guests. Opening the show is the highly-rated Swedish four-piece Winter. The Gothenburg quartet toured with Eve Selis, (she did a sterling show at The Sage a week or two back), last month and bring their Lucinda Williams/10,000 Maniacs/Fleetwood Mac-style sound to Tyneside for the first time. Ticket info on (0191) 200 7026/7132.

Coming along later in the month: reggae, Cuban, Cajun and lots of jazz !

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