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Friday, July 17, 2009

Legend: Al Green


b. AIbert Greene, 13th April 1946, Forrest City, Arkansas, U.S.A.
Al Green was born in Forrest City in Arkansas. He began his singing career at the age of nine in his fathers group, the Green Brothers. Al was the sixth of ten children born to Robert and Cora Greene. The Green Brothers toured throughout the South in the mid-'50s, before the family moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Al later left the group and formed a Rock / R & B band called Al Greene and the Creations, which then became re-titled Al Greene and The Soul Mates.
The latter incarnation released a single called 'Back Up Train', which was later to be featured on Al's solo album release. Al's father removed him from the group when he caught Al listening to Jackie Wilson. Al Greene's debut solo LP was released on the Hot Line imprint in 1967, and was called 'Back Up Train'. Around this time Al came to the attention of the legendary producer Willie Mitchell.
In 1969, Willie hired him as a vocalist for a Texas show with his band, and then asked him to sign with the label. In 1970, Al recorded the album 'Green Is Blues' with his new partner. The follow up LP, 'Al Green Gets Next to You' (released in 1970), was a success and included four gold singles. 'Let's Stay Together' (released in 1972) was an even bigger success, as was 'I'm Still In Love With You' (released in 1972). 'Call Me' continued the success, a set followed by 'Al Green Explores Your Mind' (released in 1974) containing the song 'Take Me to the River', later covered by Talking Heads, amongst others. The following year Al released '(I'm So) Tired Of Being Alone', whose success set the scene for the following 5 years, where Al recorded 9 albums, had seven top ten hits and sold 30 million records!
Disaster struck on the 18th of October 1974, when Al was left with severe burns on his back, stomach and arm after an argument with a friend and partner, Mary Woodson (whom Al had met whilst performing in the New York State Correctional Facility. Mary was visiting a friend at the establishment). She had told Al she was not attached, although she was married with children at the time. Mary burst in whillst Al was taking a bath and poured boiling grits over his back and then shot herself dead, which left the singer with second degree burns. Although she was already married, Woodson reportedly became upset when Green refused to marry her. This tragic accident led to Al re-assessing his life and he decided to turn to Gospel as a healer.
He joined the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis, where he still preaches and sings to the congregation today. Al recorded two soul / gospel albums entitled 'The Belle Album ' in 1977 and 'Truth N'Time' in 1978, and, during live performances, he still sang his older, successful, secular material.
Disaster struck yet again in 1979, when Al fell onto a steel instrument case in Cincinnatti, which led to a 15 day stay in hospital. After this incident, Al stuck strictly to his Gospel singing for a while, feeling that the Lord was punishing him in some way. His first completely Gospel record arrived in 1980, entitled 'The Lord Will Make A Way' for the Myrrh imprint. This album won Al a Grammy for the Best Soul Gospel Performer.
By 1985, Al had joined A & M Records, where he worked with Willie Mitchell again on the album 'Going Away'. The following year saw the release of 'Soul Survivor', which moved Al back into a more soulful / gospel vein again. He hit the charts the same year with the Arthur Baker produced single 'The Message Is Love'. Al was also featured in the 1988 movie 'Scrooged' recording the song 'Put A Little Love In Your Heart', a duet with Annie Lennox. By 1993, Al was recording with Arthur Baker again, and released the album 'Don't Look Back'.
Al's first secular album in many years was 'Your Heart's In Good Hands' (released in 1995). The same year hewas inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2003 Al released a secular album entitled 'I Can't Stop', his first collaboration with Willie Mitchell since 1985's 'He is the Light'. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Al at number 65 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
2005 saw the release of 'Everything's O.K.', which was also a collaboration with Willie Mitchell on this release. Willie returned to the studio in 2008, which saw the release of 'Lay It Down'. 'Lay It Down', includes tracks featuring John Legend, Corinne Bailey Rae and Anthony Hamilton. Al was, also, honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2008 BET Awards on the 24th of June 2008. Soul fans look to his single 'Keep On Pushing Love' as one of his finest recent releases.
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Albums:
  • Back Up Train (1967)
  • Green Is Blues (Hi 1970)
  • Al Green Gets Next To You (Hi 1971)
  • Let's Stay Together (Hi 1972)
  • Al Green (Bell 1972)
  • I'm Still In Love With You (Hi 1972)
  • Call Me (Hi 1973)
  • Livin' For You (Hi 1973)
  • Al Green Explores Your Mind (Hi 1974)
  • Radio Special: Self Portrait (1974)
  • Al Green Is Love (Hi 1975)
  • Full Of Fire (Hi 1976)
  • Have A Good Time (Hi 1976)
  • The Belle Album (Hi 1977)
  • Truth 'N' Time (Hi 1978)
  • Love Ritual (1978)
  • The Lord Will Make A Way (Myrrh 1980)
  • Higher Plane (Myrrh 1981)
  • Tokyo Live (Hi 1981)
  • Precious Lord (Myrhh 1982)
  • I'll Rise Again (Myrrh 1983)
  • The Christmas Album (1983)
  • Trust In God (Myrrh 1984)
  • He Is The Light (A&M 1985)
  • Going Away (A&M 1986)
  • White Christmas (Hi 1986)
  • Soul Survivor (A&M 1987)
  • I Get Joy (A&M 1989)
  • Love Is Reality (1992)
  • Gospel Soul (1993)
  • Don't Look Back (RCA 1994)
  • In Good Hands (MCA 1995)
  • On Fire In Tokyo (Xenon 1998)
  • Feels Like Christmas (2001)
  • I Can't Stop (Blue Note 2003)
  • Everything's O.K. (Blue Note 2005)
  • Lay It Down (Blue Note 2008)

Bootlegs
  • 1973 - Live at WNET Studios
  • 1974-10-04 - los angeles, ca
  • 1987-06-21 - Chicago Blues Festival - low bitrate, need better!
  • 2008-06-20 - Rochester Jazz Festival, NY
  • 2009-06-12 - Bonnaroo, Manchester TN 

Compilations
  • The Immortal Soul Of Al Green (4 CD set) (2001)
  • Collector's Edition (3 CD, 2007)
  • Al Green Sings the Gospel (1975)
  • A Deep Shade of Green (1996)
  • The Love Songs Collection
  • The Definitive Greatest Hits (1975)


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Resources

Thanks to: Fresh Sly, Zand, Blak's Lair, Noise Junkie, Nathan's Rock Moat

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Legendary Group: The Isley Brothers





The nucleus of this enduring group are three brothers:

  • O' Kelly Isley (b. 25th December 1937, Cincinnati, U.S.A., d. 31st March 1986)
  • Rudolph Isley (b. 1st April 1939, Cincinnati, U.S.A.)
  • and Ronald Isley (b. 21st May 1941, Cincinnati, U.S.A.)


The Isley Brothers began singing gospel in their hometown of Cincinnati, U.S.A. During the early 50's, the trio were accompanied by their brother Vernon, who died in a car crash during 1957. The group relocated to New York the following year and issued a few one-off singles before being signed by the RCA Records production team, Hugo And Luigi. One of their compositions 'Shout' built the group a reputation during live performances. The song sold well in the black market, and has since become an R & B standard and covered by several rock artists including the Beatles and Lulu.


The Isleys switched labels to Wand in 1962, where they enjoyed another sizeable hit with a cover version of the Top Notes' 'Twist And Shout', another song covered by the Beatles. The following years the group recorded for the labels, Wand and United Artists. A brief spell with Atlantic Records in 1964 saw the release of , 'Who's That Lady?', that did not do well at the time, but was to see a renaissance a decade later on.

The Isleys then formed their own company, T-Neck Records, in 1964, something not encouraged by a mainly white run music business at the time. The first release on the label, 'Testify', showcased their young lead guitarist, Jimi Hendrix. That record's experimental sound went largely unnoticed, and the Isleys, T-Neck and Hendrix went their separate ways.


The Isleys then signed a contract with Motown Records. At the Motown outset the group were teamed with the songwriting partnership of Holland / Dozier / Holland. By 1966, the song 'This Old Heart Of Mine' became a huge hit in America and a hit four years later in the U.K. 'Behind A Painted Smile' and 'I Guess I'll Always Love You' were reissued in the U.K. and became hits in the U.K. towards the end of the 60's.

The Isleys reactivated T-Neck in 1969 and took on a different look to refurbish their image. The group added two younger brothers: Ernie Isley (b. 7th March 1952; guitar) and Marvin Isley (bass) as well as a cousin, Chris Jasper (keyboards).


In America, 'It's Your Thing' and 'I Turned You On' scored at the end of the Sixties, whilst the U.K. were catching up with several earlier Motown releases. These records employed a funkier sound, inspired by the likes of James Brown And The JB's. Between 1969 and 1972 a live double set featured extended versions of their recent hits, and 'In The Beginning', a collection of their 1964 recordings with Jimi Hendrix.

In the early 70's, the Isleys incorporated into their repertoire a variety of rock material by composers such as Bob Dylan, Stephen Stills, Todd Rundgren and Carole King. By 1973, the album '3 + 3', became the first album issued via a distribution agreement with CBS Records. This albm set the course for several excellent outings throughout the Seventies and early Eighties. Ernie Isley's guitarwork (influenced by Jimi Hendrix) became central in the Isleys' sound, and was featured on the album's lead single, 'That Lady', a more successful version of their underrated 1964 single on Atlantic. '3 + 3' also contained soft soul interpretations of material by Seals And Croft, James Taylor and the Doobie Brothers.


'Highways Of My Life' demonstrated Ronald's own developing songwriting skills. 'The Heat Is On' in 1975 showcased the two sides of the groups' songwriting stylings. Side one would become the funkier, social commentary side of the groups writings. Side two would highlight their more romantic leanings, epitomised by the soul standard 'For The Love Of You'. It was this formula that stayed with the band for the following late Seventies and early Eighties offerings.

'Harvest For The World' (1976) proved to be one of the Isleys' most popular recordings. The song became a hit, in 1988, within the pop charts for the Christians. In the late 70's, the Isley's albums became popular within the Disco genre with Black & White audiences. 'The Pride', 'Take Me To The Next Phase', 'I Wanna Be With You' and 'Don't Say Goodnight' all topped the black music charts. 'It's A Disco Night', a U.K. hit in 1980, came from the double album 'Winner Takes All', which also included the excellent 'Let Me In Your Life'.

In the mid Eighties, Ernie and Marvin Isley and Chris Jasper left the group to form the successful Isley, Jasper, Isley combination. The rest of the group still recorded under the Isley Brothers banner, however, when O'Kelly Isley died from a heart attack on 31st March 1986, the group rested for a while. Ronald and Rudolph dedicated their next release, 'Smooth Sailin', to him. That album was produced by Angela Winbush with the title track highlighting.


Angela took over the artistic control of the group, and she wrote and produced their 1989 release 'Spend The Night', which was effectively a Ronald Isley solo album.The Isley Brothers legacy, has influenced several artists during the Nineties onwards, notably R Kelly on his 'For The Love Of You' sounding, 'Your Body's Calling'. Their 1996 release 'Mission To Please' attempted to move them into the same smooth urban soul territory as Keith Sweat and Babyface.

In 2001, the group returned to recording releasing 'Eternal', which featured vocal and production input from R Kelly, Raphael Saadiq, Avant, Jill Scott and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. An album entitled 'Body Kiss' was released in 2003 for the Dreamworks imprint. Their series of US hits from the 50's to the 90's is one of the major influences on Black American music.

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Albums
  • Shout (RGA Victor 1959)
  • Twist And Shout (Wand 1962)
  • Twisting And Shouting (Wand 1964)
  • In The Beginning (Isley Brothers & Jimi Hendrix) (1964)
  • This Old Heart Of Mine (Tamla 1966) 
  • Tamla Motown Presents: The Isley Brother (1967)
  • Soul On The Rocks (Tamla 1967)
  • Behind A Painted Smile [UK] (1969)
  • It's Our Thing (T-Neck 1969) 
  • The Brothers: Isley (T-Neck 1969)
  • Get Into Something (T-Neck 1970)
  • The Isley Brothers Way (1970)
  • Givin' It Back (T-Neck 1971)
  • Brother Brother Brother (T-Neck 1972)
  • The Isleys Live (T-Neck 1973)
  • 3 + 3 (T-Neck 1973)
  • The Isley Brothers (1974)
  • Live It Up (T-Neck 1974)
  • The Heat Is On (T-Neck 1975)
  • Harvest For The World (T-Neck 1976)
  • Go For Your Guns (T-Neck 1977)
  • Showdown (T-Neck 1978)
  • Winner Takes All (T-Neck 1979)
  • Go All The Way (T-Neck 1980)
  • Grand Slam (T-Neck 1981)
  • Inside You (T-Neck 1981)
  • The Real Deal (T-Neck 1982)
  • Between The Sheets (T-Neck 1983)
  • Masterpiece (Warners 1985)
  • Smooth Sailin' (Warners 1987)
  • Spend The Night (Warners 1989)
  • Tracks Of Life (Warners 1992)
  • Live (Elektra 1993)
  • Mission To Please (Island 1996)
  • Eternal (Dreamworks Records 2001)
  • Body Kiss (Dreamworks Records 2003)
  • Taken To The Next Phase (2004)
  • Baby Makin' Music (Def Soul 2006)
  • I'll Be Home for Christmas (Def Soul Classics 2007)

Isley, Jasper, Isley
  • Isley Jasper Isley - Broadway's Closer to Sunset Boulevard (1984)
  • Isley Jasper Isley - Caravan of Love (1985)
  • Isley Jasper Isley - Different Drummer (1987)

Solo albums

  • Chris Jasper - Superbad (1987)
  • Chris Jasper - Time Bomb (1989)
  • Chris Jasper - Amazing Love (2005) PW = Mr. Moo
  • Chris Jasper - Invincible (2007)
  • Chris Jasper - The Best Of Chris Jasper (2003)
  • Ernie Isley - High Wire (1990)
  • Ronald Isley - Here I Am (sings Burt Bacharach) (2003)
  • Ronald Isley - Mr.I (2010)

Live Bootlegs
  • with Brooklyn Bridge and Edwin Hawkins: Live At Yankee Stadium (T-Neck 1969)

Compilations

  • The Ultimate Isley Brothers (2000)
  • Take Some Time Out -The Famous Isley Brothers (United Artists 1964)
  • Doin' Their Thing (Tamla 1969)
  • Beautiful Ballads (1994)
  • 'Mellow' Isleys (1995)
  • The RCA Sessions (1996)
  • Brothers In Soul [The Early Years] (1993)
  • It's Your Thing (1999) [3Cd Boxset]
  • For The Love Of You (1993)
  • Greatest Hits Live (2005)
  • Summer Breeze: Greatest Hits (2005)
  • The Definitive Collection
  • Bedroom Classics Vol 3
  • The Essential Isley Brothers (2004)

Miscellaneous
  • Privilege - Privilege (1969) - produced by the Isleys on T-Neck
  • Baby Cortez - The Isley Way (1970) - T-Neck keyboardist, solo album covering Isley tracks.


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Resources
  • The Isley Brothers at Soulwalking
  • The Isley Brothers Discography at Rateyourmusic

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