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Edwin Starr Band
Jazz Cafe, London, 2/4/2013
It seems like a long, long time since I was browsing through my dad's records back at home when I was growing up. Looking back, although I didn't appreciate it at the time, he had some great stuff in here ranging from Beatles to Old Blue Eyes, which used to crack me up laughing. Also in there though he had a large selection of black music by artists such as the Isley Brothers, Marv Johnson and the Four Tops whose 'Second Album' was never off the gramophone! In there as well was a copy on Direction of the Foundations' 'Build Me Up Buttercup', and a few other Tamla 45s by a guy called Edwin Starr who my dad used to dance to in the front room when he was three sheets to the wind...
It is ten years now since Edwin's death. After I interviewed his younger brother, Angelo about him for Pennyblackmusic, we ventured south to Camden Town in North London after we were invited to witness what was surely one of the parties of the year to celebrate the man, the music and the friends that influenced and helped Edwin while he was here and have lead to his band continuing to keep the faith.
"The Team" have been around since 1982 but the music they reproduce goes way further back than that. Edwin churned out hit after hit after being picked up by Berry Gordy under the Motown flag and then again after he moved to Ric-Tic, where he continued his phenomenal output of making wonderful soul music and built up a reputation for consistent outstanding live performances.
Originally put together by percussionist Clive 'J.J.' Hare and bass man Kevin Kendall, the band approached vocalist Clem Curtis with a view to working together, but at that time Clem had a band of his own in the Foundations so he passed on it. He had a friend in Edwin, however, who did need one. Since then the Team has been on the road doing live shows, radio work and television. It doesn't matter to them whether it's a sell out stadium or just you and me. Their philosophy of "We came here to party" still remains, and there are few other groups with such extensive performing experience.
Edwin passed away in my hometown of Nottingham in April 2003. I had the pleasure of seeing and meeting him on a few occasions at his club, The Shed in Beeston, where I did a few stints DJing my old box of vinyl on the Northern Soul circuit. Since then though, the Team have carried on with Angelo taking over on lead vocals and they have been picking up momentum wherever they've been.
The Jazz Cafe is an intimate venue with plenty of standing room downstairs and a restaurant/eatery upstairs with a balcony overlooking down on to the small but adequate stage below. There are bars everywhere, so you're never far from a drink! We got there early but the venue quickly filled up until the announcement was made that we were ready to go, and on to the stage stepped none other than Jools Holland to get the party started. He was then followed by another family friend David Gest who said a few words. This really was a family affair. We were standing against the stairs that led up to the restaurant where many of Edwin’s family and friends were hiding out. Every time we looked around us someone new was standing with us, smiling, and introducing themselves as if we needed them to!
Angelo and the Team kicked off and eased us into the flavour of the night with a steady stream of Northern gems, classic soul groovers and a few more modern tasters to keep it up to date. If you didn't like soul, then you were better leaving now! If you did like your soul, then there was nowhere in the UK tonight where you wanted to be instead.
The first addition to the Team was Clem Curtis who gave us a brilliant rendition of 'My Girl'. This was followed by the effervescent British singer Lorraine Silver, who scored on the Northern scene with 'Lost Summer Love'. This was followed closely behind with by Tony Clarke with the classic standard 'Landslide'.
Things were really warming up when the whole room got down and dirty with it with the next guest, Gwen Dickey of 'Car Wash' specialists Rose Royce. We were moving now. As we stood and grooved a little, we were introduced to more of the Starr friends and family that came down to share a moment on the dance floor. People were just happy. It was a strange feeling to be in these turbulent and unknowing times.
A short while later singer, songwriter and record producer C.J. Jackson (the man of soul) came down from the balcony to give us 'Very Superstitious', the Stevie Wonder gem, only for there to be a loud shout from just behind us of "I'm getting me a piece of that!" as Clem Curtis raced past where we were standing to join in! Angelo has kept himself busy in his own right being involved in soul legend Lemar’s rise to fame, and he showed up later with 'If There's Any Justice in the World'.
The stars kept coming as Ray Lewis of the Drifters came on for a word, and then back later after being talked into a song towards the end. Northern starlets the Flirtations did a fantastic version of 'H.A.P.P.Y. Radio'. Edwin's friend and singer Rob Taylor was next up as was soul legend Jimmy James for a wave and a word. Even Lillian, who introduced herself to us most graciously earlier, came down to the stage for a chat which brought a few laughs and chuckles from percussionist J/.J. who was directly at the bottom of the stairs where they all accessed the stage.
The finale inevitably was Edwin's biggest hit and anti-war song 'War', and featured the whole cast in the end joining in. There wasn't a pair of shoes in the house that weren't shuffling in one way or another.
When I interviewed Angelo, he spoke of the chilled-out vibe he wanted to create for the evening. He had sent out invitations to all sort of people and friends and family alike, and if they didn't want to sing on the night then that was okay, as long as they enjoyed it while they were there. There were people upstairs that declined from singing or even having a word as they were just having fun with the family. Names kept on coming and even Geno Washington was upstairs somewhere. Everyone had a good old knees-up and we were privileged to be there too to witness a fantastic night never to be forgotten.
...and so began my love affair with Northern Soul, although I didn't know it then until I bumped into my now wife who rekindled the flame in more than one respect! I had grown up with black music and soul and reggae and all through my growing pains of fishtail parkas and futurist Bowie trousers and box jackets to my Two-Tone suits and premature fatherhood I had some kind of soul influence keeping its faith inside me.
My collection of original Northern grew and my bank account diminished ,but was then fuelled by running local soul nights and stuff. Who would have thought that I would eventually be invited to one of the most intimate parties in soul music today, and be able to meet the culprits that have cost me a fortune and put a smile on my face for most of my life?
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Dave Goodwin at the Jazz Cafe in London watches the Edwin Starr Band play a fantastic show with an arsenal of special guests to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Edwin's death
Edwin Starr Band:Interview With Angelo Starr
With a gig coming up at the Jazz Cafe in London to commemorate the tenth anniversary of his death, Dave Goodwin speaks to long-term member Angelo Starr about his decision to take over as front man from his late brother in seminal soul outfit, the Edwin Starr Band
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