Sunday, May 21, 2006

Movin' with Melvin Brown...

Well, here it is ... my first live soul concert report! This does not happen very often where I live, as you might imagine. But, the Brighton Festival is on, and they bring in a lot of interesting things. Last night, a group of us went to see Movin' Melvin Brown at The Spiegeltent. Great venue and great music. The Spiegeltent is a 1940s German cabaret tent, and makes for an intimate and atmospheric experience, right up close to the performer.

And he is some performer! Born in Cincinnati, and now resident in Austin, Texas, Melvin has had a long career in music and dance, performing as an act alongside the Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, James Brown and BB King. He is a great singer, and also an excellent tap dancer, which adds a great percussive element to some of his numbers, and really brings out the sweat. His current show is a sort of tribute to Ray Charles and Sammy Davis Jr, but with his own style and reminiscences on his career.

Melvin talked about the first time he tried to see Ray Charles play at the Cincinnati Gardens. He was in a singing group at the time, and their usual trick was to offer to be the opening number. No dice. There are dozens of local acts vying for the spot, then the national acts to come on, then Ray himself. So while Melvin and the others are checking their pockets to rustle up some cash, one of the group comes up with an idea. Why don't they climb over this wall, through a window and onto the balcony? Which seemed like a good idea at the time. Five minutes later, the ambulance is taking Melvin's friend to the hospital with multiple abrasions and concussion, and Melvin is waiting in line to buy a ticket...

The show was an inclusive affair. You never hear sulky British indie bands engaging in any call and response with the audience! People up on stage dancing with Melvin, dancing in the aisles, shouting out, joining in with What'd I Say? and Harry Belafonte tunes. The night finished with an encore of I Can't Turn You Loose, much to my delight, and others had to suffer the sight of my geeky white dancing.

During the early 70s, Melvin recorded for Philmore Sound in Cincinnati/Hamilton, with songs including I Know, I Was A Fool To Care, Soul Man and the great Love Stormy Weather with James Matthews. One of Movin' Melvin's labelmates was the Movin', Soothin & Stone Funk Band, although I don't know if Melvin was involved with this.

Melvin Brown raises money through his performances and CDs for his homeless charity The Change This World Project.

Find out more at www.movinmelvin.com.

On the two songs below, you really get to hear Melvin's passion for music. Melvin does his own background vocals on both tunes.

Movin' Melvin Brown - Everytime (2001)
Movin' Melvin Brown - Night Time Is The Right Time (2006)

For a discography of Melvin Brown's earlier career, visit this posting provided by Ohio Soul Recordings.

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