Gig Preview: Melba Moore

This winter London is getting a rare visit from true R&B royalty when Melba Moore takes to stage at the Jazz Café in Camden on Sunday 20th December and in Bristol on 17th December.

UK soul fans are being treated to a plethora of great gigs this winter with gigs from The Great Voices of Soul tour to the first ever appearance of Cheryl Lynn in the British Isles. And now things are getting even better with the announcement that the incredible Melba Moore is set to perform a special one-off date at London’s Jazz Café in Camden, plus an additional date in Bristol with pure groove icon Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King.

Born in New York, Melba Moore was raised in a musical family. Her mother was the famed singer Bonnie Davis, who scored an early R&B hit in 1943 with ‘Don’t Stop Now’; her step-father, the pianist Clement Moorman, meanwhile urged on Moore’s early interest in music, and introduced her to talent agents in the city. His actions would land Moore a role in the classic rock musical Hair; Moore impressed, and eventually took the lead role from Diane Keaton, becoming the first African-American to take over from a white actress in a Broadway lead. She later performed in the musical Purlie, winning a Tony Award for her portrayal of the character Lutiebelle. Famously, she also appeared alongside Eartha Kitt in Timbuktu and also had a lead role in Les Misérables.

In 1975 Moore left the Broadway lights to launch her music career releasing her debut album Peach Melba that yielded her first breakout single ‘I Am His Lady’. The following year Moore teamed up with the then hot-producer Van McCoy, one of the architects of the disco sound; together they recorded and released ‘This Is It’, reaching both the Top 20 US R&B Charts and the Top 10 UK Singles charts. She also recorded the beautiful ballad ‘Lean On Me’ (not to be confused with the Bill Withers classic) in 1976. As the disco scene began to crumble, Moore struggled to reach the success of ‘This Is It, although she did nonetheless continue to release some very good material, such as the disco-infused 1979 gem ‘You Stepped Into My Life’ and the classic Southport Weekender favourite ‘Standing Right Here’, a truly brilliant seventies groove anthem.

Then in 1981 Moore released one of our favourite groove albums: Other Side of The Rainbow. The album yielded two disco-funk tracks, the fabulous grooves of ‘Love’s Comin’ At Ya’ and our personal favourite, ‘Mind Up Tonight’. Both songs saw Moore escape the demise of disco, embracing the post-disco dance sounds of the eighties. The album’s title track once again highlighted Moore’s impressive vocal range, and her version of the Four Tops’ classic ‘I Can’t Help Myself’ is enjoyably playful, complete with an eighties-esque saxophone solo.

Buoyed by the success of Other Side of The Rainbow Moore continued to release well-received albums throughout the eighties, including Never Say Never and Read My Lips, the latter of which featured the particularly delightful tune ‘I Can’t Believe (It’s Over)’.  Later, in 1986 she teamed up with R&B crooner Freddie Jackson to release the ballad ‘A Little More Love’, a beautiful song performed exquisitely by these two incredible talents.

Moore would continue to record into the nineties and into the new century, including a Christmas album and a gospel album entitled Nobody But Jesus. In 2009 Moore teamed up with veteran soul singer Phil Perry to release a brilliant album of duets, which saw them combine on classic songs such as Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrel’s ‘You’re All I Need To Get By’ and ‘Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing’, as well as a fabulous version of ‘Optimistic’, originally done by Sounds of Blackness. Moore has also released a few new singles in recent years, and rumours have it that a full album is in production to be released soon.

Melba Moore’s long and successful career on stage and in the recording studio is unparalleled. These special one-off dates in Bristol and in London are sure to be the perfect Christmas gift this year, and an opportunity to see one of the giants of soul music. For more information and ticket details for the Bristol show with Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King click here, for the London date at the Jazz Café in Camden click here.

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2 years ago
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George Haffenden
Written by George Haffenden
Brought up on a healthy diet of soul and funk, Haff's dream was to become the first British member of The Temptations. Realising that this dream could never be realised, he is now the curator of The Funk & Soul Revue.