Directions and Influences - chapter 11

Al Green and Bobby Womack

’79 &’80 I lived in Miami Florida. One of my musical highlights there was getting to see Al Green live in concert. I had always been a huge fan of his dating back to when I used to listen to Armed Forces Radio in Tokyo a decade before. They used to play a lot of R & B. To see the man in person was an experience. I never thought that he would be so dynamic live. I learned new dimensions in light and shade and control of a band watching him perform. He would take the band up to an impossible gospel driven crescendo and BANG! drop it down to a level you could talk over all in one quick hand gesture but the band still maintained the intensity of the music at that lower volume. Mind you being in a predominantly black audience they don't just talk, they whoop and holler, in this environment the audience is part of the show. It was a great experience akin to being at a Southern Baptist Crusade. I learnt so much about light and shade in that one night and I was the bane of many raucous drummers from that time on. Because these musicians had learned to play in a church environment, they had learned how to really rock out and give people that intense rhythmic feeling without it having to be so loud and bashing.

I noticed that Van Morrison used the same technique when leading his own band. It's like having really spirited horses, keeping them on a tight reign and then letting them cut loose for a moment when the time was just right and then reigning them in again. It keeps the tension up and the feeling so exciting all the time and I'm sure it is a technique born from gospel music.

I also saw Bobby Womack perform and he used the same techniques. He started of in a three-piece cream and candy red striped suit and matching hat. Remember it was the 80s and it was Miami Florida!!! Every few songs he would remove an article of clothing. By the end of the evening he was getting down and sweaty with nothing but his pants on and I know a lot of the women there were hoping that they were coming off too! All the showbiz aside, the man was a consummate performer and a great singer. Not to mention that he has written some awesome songs too. He had been Sam Cooke's guitar player and married Sam's wife after his death. Their kids who later became Womack and Womack performed in the band that night. It was a great night and I learnt so much yet again.

Next: Chapter 12 - New Orleans, The Meters, Dr John, The Neville Brothers