Seal & Al Green
@ Pigeon Island, St. Lucia Jazz Festival
May 14 2006
Photographs & review in
order of stage appearance.
Click an image to enlarge.
Another scorching Sunday dawned as the final
St. Lucia Jazz 2006 event loomed. The thought of the inevitable
line of traffic leading to Pigeon Island had us on the road ninety
minutes before the 2 p.m. start time. The returning traffic was
also a concern. In fact the night before push to get home was more
reminiscent of London M25 mayhem. Therefore, we decided to park
the jeep at the opposite end of the Pigeon Island venue entrance.
This would mean a rough ride across a small rock filled stream on
the way home, but who cares if the road runs out…. we are
in the Caribbean! And with artists such as Poncho
Sanchez, Al Green and Seal on the line up… a quick dip
in a rocky stream was nothing to fear!
Al Green - 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.
I last saw Al Green
in June 2005, at The Royal Albert Hall in London. Back then
the Reverend looked extremely cool in his suit and tie, but let’s
face it, London can be a pretty COOL city. Here in the St. Lucia
heat, it would not be wise to wear a suit and tie… but Reverend
Green obviously did not see the weather forecast. Today was another
ninety-degree scorcher. The usually cool looking Green looked and
sounded just a little uncomfortable to me. Even editing his photographs
a week later in my extremely cool London apartment brought me out
in a sweat.
Nevertheless, Green is a showman. He did not disappoint
the St. Lucia patrons. With full band and two male dancers on tow,
he cooked up a nostalgic soup full of old soul ingredients.
With hits such as “Let’s Stay Together”,
“I’m So Tired Of Being Alone”, and “How
Can You Mend A Broken Heart” behind him, could he ever put
a foot wrong. Green has traveled through many decades of great music,
so it was not surprising to hear him pay tribute to other chart
busters such as The Four Tops “ I Can’t Help Myself"
(Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) or The Temptations “My Girl”.
Green sang these golden oldies (with a little help from patrons)
as though they were his own.
By now, his dancers suits (which could have been
a couple of sizes smaller) actually proved quite helpful. The slight
airflow in those baggy pants and jackets must have been a great
relief. Common sense would prevail and shirts would soon replace
jackets. Even Green could not take the heat anymore and removed
his jacket while continuing to preach to his mesmerised audience.
Surprisingly, he still had enough energy to distribute his customary
flowers and a cute little wiggle to the audience - Non-reverend
style. At one point, Green totally gave in to decorum and lay on
the stage as his guitarist played flat on his back, both men waving
legs in the air to the music while Green sang.
Al Green nostalgia was running at an all time high
as the hits continued to flow – Here I am (Come And Take Me)
together with Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me”
turned individuals in the crowd into Pop Idol Contestants, as they
created their own stage on the hot dry grass. The sweat was now
dripping from Green’s face. Thankfully he had long since lost
the bow tie into the souvenir-grasping crowd.
As he went off the stage to collapse with the sheer
heat and exhaustion, it was patently obvious why this grand singer
has won 9 Grammies.
Green has long since given up encores. There have
been occasions when it seemed ‘giving a bit extra’ would
have been the order of the day – It would not have been wise
this time around. And even if he did want to come back on the HOT
Pigeon Island stage, I believe he would have needed medical assistance!
Seal – biography
Sealhenry Olumide Samuel was born in London, England
of Nigerian and Brazilian ancestry. He received a degree in architecture
before pursuing a career in music. Seal joined the band Push, playing
funk music on tour in Japan. After much persistence in promoting
his own solo work he eventually released his first hit “Killer”,
which he co wrote with keyboardist Adamski. The follow up “Crazy”
also hit the charts.
In 1991 Seal was judged the best newcomer in the
United Kingdom. Four years later he received a Grammy nomination
for album of the year.
His distinct half-moon scars under his eyes a result
of a skin infection initially depressed him, but eventually became
a kind of insignia as he became an established singer and songwriter.
In 1994 Seal produced the Grammy wining hit “Kiss from a Rose”.
After a five-year break Seal returns with his new
release “Seal IV”
The decision by B.E.T, The St. Lucia Tourist Board
and co to, firstly include Seal in the St. Lucia Jazz Festival line
up. Secondly, to agree that he should appear as the headliner after
The Reverend Al Green, caused much heated discussion, as well as
raised sweat beaded brows amongst Jazz Festival regulars.
The official announcement to awaiting journalists
and photographers to, vacate the press area, before his
performance just made matters worse!
For some reason, His Royal Highness ‘Seal’
decided that he did not want to be interviewed, or have press photographers
anywhere near him.
A few years ago, His late Royal Highness ‘Luther
Vandross’ pulled the same stunt. But LUTHER is LUTHER. Seal
I have the utmost respect and empathy for individuals
who either want a little privacy, or maybe are just not interested.
But this is The St. Lucia Jazz Festival. I did not identify any
press individuals here as so called paparazzi. We were all so cool.
Everybody was just enjoying the heat, the passion, and music - And
doing our jobs respectfully!
Seal was acting a little strange as soon as he
landed in St. Lucia, not even allowing amateur ‘This is
me and Seal pics’ from flight crew.
Just like children being told, “Don’t
do this, or don’t do that”! We did exactly the opposite
by dispersing in into the crowd, Hubble telescope lenses at the
ready… Unfortunately, as I spent most of my time running from
security officials, camera and lenses dragging unceremoniously on
the ground, I do not remember much regarding Seal’s performance.
Patrons sang along and waved hands when prompted.
Overall, they seemed to enjoy his performance, but many gave mixed
feedback when questioned…
“I have only missed one Jazz Festival
weekend in fifteen years. This was the most disappointing last act
of the Festival. It would have ended on a much higher note if those
last two acts had been reversed.” George Francis –
“I love Seal. He has a great voice. I
was really looking forward to his performance of killer and Crazy,
but he sang so many songs I had not heard before. And as for the
David Bowie song…!” Stephen Barry – London
“Always a Great atmosphere at this venue.
Seal was Okay, but why wasn’t I allowed to take photographs
of him? I had an argument with his security.” Suzanne
Atwell - Barbados
"...Kiss from a rose indeed!"
Al Green- vocals
Seal - vocals
Report by Robin Francis
Additional information by Carole Clemesha
© Michael Valentine Studio