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EDWIN HAWKINS SINGERS & BLUE MINK 1970 LIVE CONCERT REVIEW
LIVE AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL, LONDON - DECEMBER 1970

IN PRACTICALLY every biography written about today's soul singers, mention is made of how he or she began singing in church; so much so that there is hardly one artist who didn't start by being a member of their local church choir.

Few vocalists stay in the gospel field – it simply doesn't pay – and they leave for the more lucrative r&b and pop markets. However, the importance of gospel music should never be overlooked (although it frequently is) since it is the foundation for soul and r&b music and one of the few groups qualified to testify to this are the Edwin Hawkins Singers.

Their first single, 'Oh Happy Day', whilst it became an international hit, threatened to label the group as 'one hit wonders', but after two very successful visits to Europe (the first during last year), they have shown that their talent surpasses that of many other million-selling so-called stars.

[WORTHWHILE] Their London concert on December 4 at the Royal Albert Hall was very well attended and the audience made it clear throughout that they enjoyed every song. The programme opened with Blue Mink who proved a worthwhile attraction in their own right. I have only seen them in action once before as supporting act to Booker T. and the MG's and, whereas then they tended to play purely for their own enjoyment (consequently ignoring the audience completely), this time they displayed their versatility and musical ability to the full.

As usual, however, the Albert Hall's acoustics (which, no matter what people tell you, are appalling) played havoc and, though sitting at the front, all I could hear was the bass guitarist who succeeded in drowning the vocals. However, fronted by Madeleine Bell and Roger Cook, the group shone with their own 'Melting Pot' and 'Our World' and included an excellent version of 'Gasoline Alley Bred'. The highspot of the group's act was, undoubtedly, Madeleine Bell's soulful solo on 'I (Who Have Nothing)'...certainly one of the best-ever versions of the song. Other numbers in their set included 'Whole Lotta Love', 'Early Morning Dew', 'Jubilation' and 'Can You Feel It Baby'. They closed with 'Good Morning Freedom'.

The second half of the concert was devoted to the Edwin Hawkins Singers, who opened with, appropriately, 'Have A Good Time'. It was an exhortation which really wasn't necessary. Needles to say, everyone DID have a good time.

[REMARKABLE HARMONIES] The audience was already shouting for more when the group went into 'Blowin' In The Wind'. 'Footprints In The Snow' brought one of the Edwin's cousins to the fore on a slow number which featured some remarkable harmonies from the rest of the group. Fiery, foxy Elaine Kelly was the soloist on 'To My Father's House', the group's last Buddah single, and, as on her previous visit, she succeeded in getting a large proportion of the audience on its feet...clapping, stomping and singing.

Mr Hawkins himself came out front for 'He's Got The Whole World In His Hands', with everyone joining in. Then, of all things, the group chose to sing a Beatles song! Well, not quite...it was 'My Sweet Lord', which Edwin recorded with George Harrison and Billy Preston on his visit last year. Unfortunately, it was rather a tedious choice and it was left to 'Ain't It Like Him', a rousing hymn featuring Edwin's brother Walter and his fiancee to dispel the sense of anti-climax which was achieved. Walter also took the lead on 'With Jesus Within', which displayed his exceptional vocal range.

The finale was, naturally, 'Oh Happy Day', featuring Elaine Kelly again. The group was forced to do two or three encores of their most famous tune but, unfortunately, time, and/or the manager of the Hall, prevented the singers from continuing. They might well have sung for another hour if they could. Certainly the audience would have welcomed it.

One point, however. The only fault with the Singers' programme was the order in which the songs came. Instead of building the atmosphere to fever pitch by starting with slower numbers and finishing with the 'gutsier' ones, they attempted to intersperse the slow and the fast, resulting in several bad anti-climaxes. But, all in all, a splendid performance.


About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.
  

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