Dr Robert & PP Arnold, Jazz Café, London

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The Independent Culture

In the mid-Sixties, PP Arnold came to Britain with The Ike & Tina Turner Revue and left The Ikettes to become the First Lady of Immediate, the label set up by the Rolling Stones Svengali Andrew Loog Oldham. She worked with the Small Faces and The Nice, recorded the definitive version of Cat Stevens's "The First Cut Is the Deepest" and the Chip Taylor composition "Angel of the Morning", but hasn't managed a second act on a par with Tina Turner's stellar Eighties comeback. She's kept busy, though, most notably as guest vocalist with dance acts Beatmasters and Altern 8, and was most recently seen touring as backing singer with Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame.



Robert Howard shone briefly in the mid-Eighties as the frontman with the gospel-influenced Blow Monkeys and was a thorn in Margaret Thatcher's side with the album She Was Only a Grocer's Daughter. He's worked with Paul Weller, is as much a soul fan as the Modfather, and has form indeed, having recorded with Kym Mazelle and the late Curtis Mayfield.

His collaboration with Arnold came about when both met at a party in Spain, where they both live, and made good their promise to work together. Their first London show as a duo is to introduce Five in the Afternoon, the album they recorded near Granada.

They perform the first five tracks in the same order as on the album, easing their way in with the gentle sway of "Nothing But Love" and trading lines throughout "Be My Judge" and "What Am I Gonna Do?". The magic really starts to work on the deceptively languid title track as the crack backing band build a Norman Whitfield-like groove, while Dr Robert plays jazzy guitar licks and Arnold caresses the vocal.

She tears it up when they go back to her Sixties catalogue for "Angel of the Morning" and "Though it Hurts Me Badly", the song Mick Jagger produced for her. Dr Robert has his moment in the spotlight with "The Coming of Grace" and "Digging Your Scene". He must be commended for not taking the Eighties package tour route. He's matured as a songwriter and addresses the passage of time and the passing of loved ones on "Shape It for Me" and "Stay Now". He can't help kicking at the corpse of Thatcherism with "(Celebrate) the Day After You", the single he recorded with Mayfield that was banned by the BBC in 1987.

Arnold has the voice of a soul diva and plenty of grace. Her partnership with Dr Robert more than fulfils its potential. Class is indeed permanent.

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