Time travel, timeless music at Countryside
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Give or take a half day, depending on distance from the Prime Meridian, four days ago it was Saturday, July 12, 2014 everywhere else in the world except Countryside Club, Courtney Walsh Drive, St Andrew. There, it was 1983 and a plethora of Motown stars had made it to Jamaica to perform for a very appreciative audience.
It was not only persons from the famed American label who hit the bandstand for a series of truncated performances, (most persons doing three or four songs), as there were some guests to justify the name of the concert, 'Motown Plus: 1983.'
Of course, BB King, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, The Supremes and Eddie Floyd were not actually at Countryside in the flesh. However, they were definitely there in the spirit, their flesh taking the form of several impersonators who stepped gleefully into the skins and accents of the persons they were singing in the stead of.
That involved many Afro wigs - Fab 5 Band as The Barkays, and Baldwin doing hosting duties as Don Cornelius of Soul Train were particularly outstanding in that regard. Charmaine Limonius went British in her accent for Dusty Springfield and Junior Sinclair as Eddie Floyd had some fun differentiating between saltfish and codfish. Cornelius also predicted that Brazil would win the World Cup in 2014.
There was no joking around with the music, though, the substantial audience that turned out for the annual Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates (JAVAA), showing its appreciation for the overwhelmingly high quality renditions of songs often recognisable by the opening strains - and, during My Willow Tree, there was applause for the tinkle of bells.
As is standard for concerts organised by JAVAA, it started on time, many people missing The Platters' (advertised as Jackie Dawes, Bobby Dawes, Delroy Minott and Clive Simpson) delivery of The Great Pretender. BB King (Junior Bailey) came equipped with his guitar to sing and play on Someday Baby, the blues going over well on a mainly soul show.
Tubeless was MC for the first segment, dropping effective quips between performers. Dorothy Moore (Veronica Rose) proposed an exchange, "if you give me your heart" and there were whoops for Misty Blue. Gladys Knight (Mari Isaacs) came without the Pips, the silver glitter in her black dress shimmering as she did a good version of You're The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.
Junior Sinclair did not bother with additional hair to stand in for Eddie Floyd - and did not need any. Performing From I've Never Found a Girl (To Love Me Like You) to Consider Me, he went over so well that a couple people stood in acclaim and there were calls for an encore, which Floyd demurred. Tubeless said Floyd was having throat problems and it was on to the ultra-cool of Frank Sinatra (Colin Shirley).
It would always be a tough call for the intensity of Floyd to be followed by the deliberate restraint of Sinatra, but the dapper, cool presentation went over well on Strangers in the Night and My Way. Jerry Butler (Deh Deh) had locks, taking the audience along Moon River and relating the song's release date to Jamaica's Independence.
Chuck Jackson (Bagga Case) brought up intermission with a bang. Starting out with Any Day Now and working his way into the audience, Jackson beamed and said "wonderful!" when the bells sounded. Some people rose when Case ended with Tell Him I'm Not Home to bring up intermission, in which Tubeless did some seven for one Brazil bards before the recorded music took over.
The Supremes (Deon Hardy, Kaydia Brooks and Niccollen Brooks) were clad in gold, accentuating their performance with coordinated hand movements (the palms went out on Stop! In the Name of Love). Al Green (Andrew Cassanova) also had locks, but it was the voice that was spectacular as Green hit the spot from the groove of Here I Am Baby through to the plaintive How Can You Mend a Broken Heart and uptempo Love and Happiness.
Dusty Springfield (Charmaine Limonius) slowed the pace to good effect, her British banter especially good, but the songs (Believe Me and Son of a Preacher Man) were even better.
As 'Motown Plus: 1983' headed to a close, the performances got a little longer. Stevie Wonder (Chris McDonald), whose head-dress was braids, was led to the keyboard and sat to deliver My Cherie Amour and an excellent version of Lately, then getting up to play the drums in a show of versatility.
Whitney Houston (Gem Myers) was superb, the range of the songs especially suited to her voice. I'm Every Woman, I Wanna Dance With Somebody, Where Do Broken Hearts Go and All at Once hitting the mark repeatedly. There was a general standing ovation when Houston departed the stage, and it was up to James Brown (Ossie D) to close the show.
He earned his title as The Hardest Working Man in Showbiz, doing the fancy footwork and singing Get Up and I Feel Good, among other tracks, even as the inevitable drift towards the exit started. Still, Brown earned the regard of the many who remained to bring 'Motown Plus: 1983' to an end deserving of applause.