@ The Royal Albert Hall, London
29 June 2005
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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
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
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
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.
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).
© Michael Valentine Studio Ltd.