Southside started life as a modest four piece band recruited by Dick on drums, fronted by Geraint Watkins on piano and vocals, backed by guitarist Jimmy Roche together with bass player Roger Sutton. All accomplished musicians, they enjoyed a common interest in Rhythm & Blues. Although not originating from the area, all had found themselves based in South London, centred in and around Brixton. Indeed, the band took it's name from Clapham Common 'Southside' - not the most original name - more a reflection of the band's location and genre.
The band started playing at local Pubs and clubs and quickly built a regular enthusiastic following.
After a short while, Roger Sutton was enticed away by Rolling Stone Charlie Watts to play with Rocket 88. Roger's place was filled by Ian Ellis who had just completed a Savoy Brown tour. After a while, Geraint also took time out to record and tour with Shakin' Stevens and later moved on to become an 'in demand' sideman for many other major artists. Geraint's place was filled by Diz Watson, another charismatic singer and keyboard player. Meanwhile, as the band continued to grow in popularity, a Brass section was added. Local heroes Steve Waller and Stevie Smith jammed regularly with the band. Steve Waller became a permanent addition, blending in perfectly with his superb guitar playing and outstanding vocals.
Over a period, Southside became a 'musicians band' that just 'had to be seen'. With a repertoire that was never highly rehearsed or arranged, Southside also became a band that everybody wanted to play with. With this scenario, the band met up with many good friends, some old, some new. As a result, every gig was a blast from start to finish - the music not always tight but always exiting - while reflecting a 'genuine blues' feel.
Brixton is a cultural melting pot with a significant Caribbean presence. Reggae is everywhere. Not surprisingly, some Reggae influenced rhythms soon crept into the programme. Southside gigs attracted an audience from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds, as well as a surprisingly wide age group. Rasta Dubstar 'Chemist' frequently 'jumped up' to resounding applause to make his own welcome contribution. Check him out on 'Oh What a Price' and 'Ain't No Love'.
'Further on Down the Road' (another Southside showstopper) it was agreed that the band would record a single - a (hopefully) commercial Reggae version of 'Softly Softly'.
The single very soon turned into an album and just as the band had grown, so did the album, finishing up as the Southside double. Everybody came together and everybody wanted to play on it ! In characteristic friendly fashion the core members were only too happy to go with this and so it was determined, the original concept would be re-defined. The Southside United compilation was born, giving greater variety to the programme and providing a showcase for a number of the band's most popular guests as well as the regular line up.
All the tracks were recorded 'semi-live' at 'The Vineyard' (the name says it all) with sessions running from midnight to dawn, thus providing an opportunity for many friends to drop by after their own gigs had finished. This created a positively euphoric atmosphere with everyone giving their all, just as Southside had always done. Every session was a guaranteed party and what a party it was ! Without the aid of synths, click tracks, drum machines or other electronic wizardry the album was crafted by 'dues paid' musicians in true R & B style. On every track the energy, enthusiasm and ability comes shining through.
The tracks selected for Vol 1 represent songs designed to appeal to a wide spectrum audience as well as those that generated the best audience reaction during live performances. Many numbers are old favourites which have not been previously 'overworked' and are given a new lease of life from the unique Southside treatment. Some originals, all written by band members, have also been included.
As Dick Lovejoy says, Southside United is 'a true love story' and that's good enough for me ! A fine album by a great bunch of guys. I know 'cos I was there and I'll be back ! Southside - One Time ! Forget hyped-up fashion trends, stick with the good stuff, this is it ! I hope that you, the listener, enjoy the album as much as I know everybody enjoyed making it.
This one is a real gem - a positive 'must have' for all R & B fans. Go for it !
Mr T. (Sound Sensations)