Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Pretty Things and Mike Sanchez - Edinburgh Blues'N'Rock Festival, 29 July 2017

It’s well into the evening at the Corn Exchange, and after a belter of a set from the Stevie Nimmo Trio it’s time for those Sixties veterans The Pretty Things.
They get the ball rolling with a bundle of R’n’B, including their own short and sweet ‘Honey I Need’, and ‘Mama Keep Your Big Shout’ which features rippling guitar from original member Dick Taylor and a great bass riff from George Woosey.  They also turn out an idiosyncratic take on ‘Big Boss Man’, with a harp solo from second guitarist Frank Holland and some nifty guitar work from Taylor, who cuts a stooped figure but has evidently got the spirit.
Dick Taylor and Phil May - pretty young things
But while the Pretty Things had their roots in the R’n’B scene of the early Sixties, they also delved into more experimental fare as the decade wore on.  Consequently they progress to songs like ‘Same Sun’, which provides an echo of the earlier set by Miracle Glass Company, followed by something heavier, wilder and more psychedelic that I suspect was ‘We’ll Play House’.  It’s good, but also points towards a particularly English style of whimsical psychedelia that just isn’t my cup of Joe.  So ‘She’s Next Door’ benefits from some chiming guitar lines and a pleasantly wonky Strat solo from Frank Holland, but the title track from their cult classic album S.F. Sorrow really doesn’t do it for me, while to my ears ‘I See You’ is just yawnsome.
Things buck up though when they get back on the authentic R’n’B beat with ‘Can’t Be Satisfied’, propelled by a stomping bass drum from Jack Greenwood.  Taylor adds acoustic slide to that, and does an even tastier job with it on Robert Johnson’s ‘Come In To My Kitchen’, a song that always repays sensitive handling.
Phil May then announces that it’s time for them to get into Bo Diddley mode, and things duly get more electric on ‘Can’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover’.  ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ shows off the originality of Diddley’s material, with the band’s young dudes Woosey and Greenwood hunkering down and delivering bucket loads of energy, while Phil May lets loose with the trademark vocal squawk that can be heard on many a PT recording.
‘Ramona’ is based on the typical Bo Diddley beat, and could just as easily be ‘Not Fade Away’ or ‘Bo Diddley’ itself, but is set apart here by some call and response guitar and bass between Taylor and Woosey, and a powerhouse drum solo from Greenwood.  Which just leaves time for them to bow out with ‘Big City’, with its rousing chorus and an explosive finish.
I must confess that Mike Sanchez has passed me by before now, despite the fact that the piano man has been a long time associate of the likes of Mick Fleetwood, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton, and a member of Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings.  I imagine their interest is due to his authentic feel for old-fashioned rock’n’roll, judging by his performance here.
If he eases in with the boogie woogie of ‘Back To The Highway’, he’s soon cranking it up.  ‘Red Hot Mama’ is driving rock’n’roll, while on ‘I Get So Hungry’ he and his band pick up the
Mike Sanchez does some ivory tinkling
swing baton from Deke McGee, with some corny lyrics worthy of Louis Jordan.  ‘I’m Ready’ has more of a Fats Domino feel than the wildness of Little Richard or Jerry Lee Lewis, and Sanchez demonstrates that he has a good voice for it.   Contrastingly, there’s a New Orleans vibe to ‘Rock Rock Rock’, with a great tenor sax solo from Martin Winning just one illustration of what a crack band Sanchez has.
Coming down the stretch it’s just a catalogue of hits from all quarters, kicking off with an unusual take on John Lee Hooker’s ‘Boom Boom Boom’ that suddenly switches into ‘Shake Your Hips’, which is where Black Cat Bone started the day nine hours earlier.  Sanchez then embarks on a rollicking medley of Bo Diddley songs interspersed with god knows what else, including the likes of ‘Tequila’, ‘Oh Well’ and ‘Black Betty’.
By now it’s getting late, and a fatigued crowd is starting to thin out, but Sanchez keeps pounding it out for a while longer, concluding with a finale that includes ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’ and ‘Wild One’.  It’s a good rockin’ end to the night, but as with Deke McGee it feels rather lost in a big room like the Corn Exchange.  If I ever see Mike Sanchez again, I want it to be some place where the walls are sweating and the audience has a heaving dance floor shaking.  That’s where this stuff would get really red hot, mama.

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