GIG REVIEW –DAN PENN AND SPOONER OLDHAM
Legendary Memphis singer/songwriters Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham made a rare visit to the UK last month and your LGA reviewer, Paul Wood, caught them in the rather splendid environment of the Union Chapel.
The current tour was the pair’s first visit to the UK in 9 years and was timed to coincide with the re-release of their previous live album “Moments From This Theatre” which has been repackaged in a deluxe CD edition (“The Complete Duo Recordings”) which combines the original album with a live DVD recorded at their 2009 gig in St James’s Church, Piccadilly. A gig attended by both the current reviewer and the London Guitar Academy maestro, James Stratton.
A reverential crowd was delighted to see the veteran performers in fine form. The on stage banter between the two reflects the 50 year period they’ve been recording, performing and writing together. Oldham’s greeting to the audience of “this is a mighty fine place you’ve got here” is followed by a razor sharp response from Penn “if this was the USA it would have been torn down long ago”.
The opening song of the set (and album) is the classic – “I’m Your Puppet”. The uptempo version of the 60s version by James and Bobby Purify is slowed right down to give it a classic soul gospel feel. Penn’s still strong vocals are underpinned by Oldham’s light but immaculate presence on keyboard. Here’s a link to a TV studio version of the song:
Hit follows hit, “Sweet Inspiration” (the Sweet Inspirations), Cry Like A Baby (Box Tops), Do Right Woman (Aretha Franklin) before Spooner takes the lead vocal on his “Lonely Women Make Good Lovers” (a country hit for Bob Luman in the 70s and then Steve Warriner in the 80s). Spooner’s fragile vocal delivery is listened to by the audience in spellbound silence, ending in tumultuous applause as the last notes fade away.
It’s then back Dan on vocals for “It Tears me Up” and stone cold classic “Dark End of the Street” (“you can never beat a good cheatin’ song” quips Penn). Here’s a link to Dan doing this song on the David Letterman show (with the recently deceased Bobby Emmons on keys):
A version of “You Left The Water Running” leaves Dan Penn slightly dissatisfied “I’d like to have done that a little better, but sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t”
“Out of Left Field” clearly has Penn back on fine form and then it’s the Memphis funk and humour of “Memphis Women and Fried Chicken” with Penn and Oldham trading vocal chicken clucking noises as the song draws to a close.
Here’s a link to the studio version:
Having played almost all of the “Theatre” album, Penn takes a wander through his extensive back catalogue with versions of “Is A Bluebird Bird” (his first hit, written for Conway Twitty, while Penn was still at school) and “Nobody’s Fool” (the title track of his 1973 solo album) – “I don’t think many of you will have got this album” says Penn.
Spooner gets another shot on vocals with “My Goodness” (co-written by Oldham with Donnie Fritts) and the pair close with another stone classic in “Zero Willpower”. There’s no encore, Penn tells the audience “Our knees won’t cope with coming back up and down these steps to the stage” , but it doesn’t matter. The crowd have loved every minute of the show and it’s a delight to see the old troubadours back in the UK again.
If you didn’t catch Dan and Spooner while they were over here, buy the new CD/DCD package to see what you’ve missed.
I’m Your Puppet
Cry Like A baby
Do Right Woman, Do Right Man
I Met Her In Church
Lonely Women Make Good Lovers
It Tears me Up
Dark End of the Street
You Left The Water Running
Out of Left Field
Memphis Women and Fried Chicken
Woman Left Lonely
I’m Living Good
Is A Bluebird Blue
Oh My Goodness
Nine Pound Steel
Take A Good Look
BLAST FROM THE PAST
Here’s the Dan Penn 1965 Muscle Shoals demo version of “I Do” which has recently been released on “Dan Penn: The Fame Recordings” on the ACE label