GG Shinn, Live in Concert (Independent)

In 1992, the 10-piece, horn-powered, blue-eyed soul aggregation Bits & Pieces invited GG Shinn to be its marquee vocalist at the Lutcher Bonfire Festival, an annual community Yuletide celebration. Neither side had ever met, but Bits & Pieces knew Shinn’s repertoire inside and out and rightfully predicted the legendary vocalist (1939-2018) would pulverize it.

That Shinn did, singing with gale-force strength and nailing cloud-scrapping high notes in nothing flat, all the while brimming with charisma. On “Unchained Melody,” he starts out in a lower octave and amazingly finishes it an octave higher. On up-tempo tunes “Knock on Wood” and “Harlem Shuffle,” Shinn works it so hard, he’s over-the-top dazzling. Bits & Pieces is there every step along the way, supplying grandiose build-ups (“All These Things”) and practically doing somersaults on the rollicking “Mr. Pitiful.” Everything goes off without a hitch and after some songs, Shinn exclaims ‘Hey, hey, hey,’ a signature expression when things are going well. 

Yet, there’s more to the backstory. This was never intended to be a commercial recording, but someone (precisely who is unclear at this point) recorded the concert on a cassette tape. Later, it was transferred to CDR and eventually got into the hands of Shinn’s widow Sandra, who had it remastered. As Bits & Pieces’ Siggy Martin will admit, the sound quality isn’t perfect but reasonably good given the circumstances. More importantly, it’s a reminder of how dynamic and unstoppable Shinn was in his prime.