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Al Green

Al Green
@ The Royal Albert Hall, London
29 June 2005

Click an image to enlarge.

Biography

Al Green formed the gospel quartet ‘The Green Brothers’ at the age of nine. They were initially based in their hometown, Forest City, Arkansas. Green and family began travelling, ‘spreading the word’ throughout the South in the mid 50’s and later relocated to Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was later forced to leave the group after his father caught him listening to ‘secular music’ in the form of Jackie Wilson. So at the age of 16 Al, together with school buddies formed the R&B group ‘Al Green & the creations’. Two founder members progressed to form their own independent record company. The group continued, changed their name (becoming The Soul Mates) and recorded “Back Up Train” under this new record label. This was a surprise hit for the group, reaching number ‘5’ in the R&B charts in 1968. Though the group attempted to repeat their early success, further single releases failed to hit the charts.

Bandleader and Hi Records vice president Willie Mitchell met Al Green in 1969 while Green was on tour in Midland Texas. Mitchell immediately signed Green to Hi Records. A collaboration was instantly formed which spawned the release of Green’s debut album “Green is Blues”. This benchmark album showcased Green’s now ‘well-known’ sexy groove, highlighted by horn punctuations surrounded by lush strings. And all this underpinned by Green’s unmistakable falsetto.

1970 saw the release of “Al Green Gets Next to you”, which spawned his first solo hit single, “Tired Of Being Alone”. Success continued with four back-to-back gold singles. The “Lets Stay Together” album released in 1972 was Green’s first hit album, which rose to number 8 in the pop charts, with it’s title track becoming his first number ‘1’ single. The album “I’m Still In Love With You” was released just months later and became an even bigger hit, reaching number 4 in the charts. This high charting album spawned hits such as “I’m Still In Love With You” and “Look What You Done For Me”.

As the year 1973 rolled by, critically acclaimed albums, regular hits, Success and all its trappings were all at Al Green’s door on a regular basis. “Call Me”, “Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy)” and Here I am had all became top ten gold singles. It seemed there would be no stopping Green’s growth in popularity, and even further chart success.

In October 1974 Mary woodson (Green’s former girlfriend) broke into his home and poured boiling grits on the singer while he was in the bath, inflicting second-degree burns on his back, stomach and arm. She then shot herself with the singers’ own gun. This chain of events effected Green in many ways. As far as Green was concerned, such violence could only be a sign from God. By 1976 Green had bought a church in Memphis and had become an ordained pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle.

The pursuit of religion did not stop Green singing R&B and by 1976 he had released a further three albums. By this time ‘disco’ had started it’ s meteoric rise in popularity and Green’s album sales where hit hard.

After a split with Willie Mitchell in 1977, Green built his own recording studio and started to produce his own music. The first album from this project was “The Belle Album” which received critical acclaim, but failed to gain a ‘crossover audience’. The following album, “Truth and Time” failed to produce a R&B hit.

Green’s worries continued on stage. In 1979 during a live performance in Cincinnati, he fell off the stage injuring himself. Green saw this as a further sign from god and retired from secular music devoting his time to preaching. He released a series of gospel albums throughout the 1980’s and even reunited with Willie Mitchell in 1985, releasing the album “He Is The Light” on the A&M label.

After much persuasion, Green returned to secular music in 1988, collaborating with Annie Lenox on the hit single “Put a little love in your heart”. He would go on and record the soul album “Don’t Look Back”, which was only released in the U.K.

In 1995 Al Green was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. He also released the contemporary urban album “Your Hearts in Good Hands”. This album was positively received by the music critics, but failed to hit. 2003 saw his first release for the Blue Note record label “I Can’t Stop”, which gained worldwide recognition. The hit album “Everything’s Ok” followed in early 2005 and proves that Al Green’s popularity has not wavered. He continues to be a major influence of many genres and artists today.

Review

There is absolutely no doubt Al Green is an experienced, charismatic performer with an unmistakable falsetto that soars to the very rafters of any large sized venue. I am a lover of smaller, more intimate venues. Wiith an artist as popular as Al Green you would have to book a small venue for at least a couple of years to give all his fans a chance to see him perform. Judging by the reaction of women (of all ages) at the front of the stage, when Al Green started handing out the customary red roses. I don’t believe a smaller venue’s floor could withstand the stampede!

Frankly, I don’t believe many of the audience members were too concerned what Green sang. His sheer presence seemed to satisfy many women’s appetite. As soon as he started singing and reached the pinnacle of his falsetto, women cheered, screamed and clutched their chest as if holding their hearts in their hands.

Green was able to mix and match during his performance. Kicking off with gospel verses, then steering his way through to his more popular million sellers. Surprisingly, you could still hear Green and his powerful backing singers’ voices above the hundreds of karaoke sing along parties within the huge walls of The Royal Albert Hall. The audience could not keep quiet (or still) during classics such as “Let’s stay together”, “How can you mend a broken heart”, or “For The Good Times.
If you are able to pick up a ticket ‘or two’ for any of Al Green’s show’s this time round, you won’t be disappointed. Especially if you want a party atmosphere with plenty of hits, glitz and glamour. If you were expecting a more sedate, sober approach it won’t take you too long to rise to this occasion anyway.

This whole event reminded me of the many party’s my parents used to have in the mid – late seventies, when anybody who knew somebody, was invited. (An era when people actually held regular house party’s in the West Indian community).

Robin Francis
© Michael Valentine Studio Ltd.

Al Green

Al Green

Al Green

Al Green

Al Green

Al Green

Al Green

Al Green & band

Al Green & band


Recommended
Listening

 

Everything's OK I Can't Stop He is In The Light Greatest Hits
Let's stay together I'm still in love with you Don't look back The rarities

 

Further Recommended
Viewing

Click the image below to see Al Green @ the St. Lucia Jazz Festival 2006...

Al Green @ the St. Lucia Jazz Festival 2006 (click to go to this page)

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