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Al Green

Al Green

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.

Review

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”

Review

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 is 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 – Barbados

“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!"

Musicians:
Al Green- vocals
Seal - vocals

St. Lucia press instruction notice

 

Report by Robin Francis
Additional information by Carole Clemesha
© Michael Valentine Studio Ltd.

Al Green

Al Green

Al Green

Al Green & band

Al Green & band

Al Green & band

Al Green & band

A; Green

Al Green

Al Green

Al Green & band

Al Green's backing singers

Seal

Seal

Seal

Seal

Pigeon Island patrons

Pigeon Island patrons

Pigeon Island patrons

Pigeon Island patrons

Pigeon Island fireworks

Pigeon Island fireworks


Recommended
Listening

 

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

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