The country-music songwriter and guitarist Ray Peters usually fronts-up the talented Smokey Turtle Band with the excellent Dean Barnes on guitar and Hannah Cope on bass. But last night the good folks at Staines’s first-class Riverside Club were treated to the honeyed mellifluence of LIZA MARSHALL on vocals.
Liza’s voice is remarkable — husky with emotion it reminds us of early Carly Simon, but it also incorporates the trill and joy of Rita Coolidge.
Lynn Anderson was one of the many stars who covered “Drift Away” the song written by Mentor Williams. It was a good place to start. Liza’s voice was filled with cream and chocolate syrup for this. The song immediately delighted the crowd in Staines.
The Zutons creative number “Valerie” was super but most folk now contend that the Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse version is the “standard” recording of this high-bounce number. It was given superb balance together with tense and relaxed tones by Liza Marshall and the Smokey Turtles. Liza gave the song that same lively spirit and cool pop twinkle that we loved on the Winehouse variant.
Perhaps it is no surprise that Liza covered the Marvin Hamlisch James Bond number [with lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager] — “Nobody Does It Better.”
Her voice is well suited to this type of vigorous hymn. With sexy cassis-flavoured low-notes, this number sent goosebumps down our spine and earned the biggest applause of the evening. Continuing this Carly theme, a James Taylor song was also covered.
An original Ray Peters song was performed with clarity and energy, and the set played out with a smooth rendition of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” the 1966 Motown Records number made famous by Marvin Gaye.
In the second half of the show we were entertained by special guest vocalist Ali MacKenzie [his ALI MAC BAND have played the Riverside Club, see here for review) and when Liza returned to the stage we enjoyed a sensual version of “When a Man Loves a Woman” a song that was first recorded by Percy Sledge in 1966. [Sledge died in April last year.]
The show was, more-or-less, wrapped up with the George Harrison number “Here Comes the Sun” — a song that was written not far from here, in the country house of Eric Clapton. Liza performed this as a solemn prayer of supplication (after a week of dark, cloudy misery) rather than the contemplative meditation that had been outlined by the “dark horse” back in 1969. The arrangement was moving and effective.
This was music of the very highest calibre, with some excellent guitar-work and imaginative, sometimes jazzy, development and paraphrasing of much-loved and familiar songs. All brought to brilliant life by a truly transcendent singer.