Friday, May 30, 2008

Down The Tracks; Lay It Down, Al Green

The reverend is back at the secular front with his third album since his 2003 comeback "I Can't Stop". After shying away from the secular market, focusing on Gospel, Al Green seems to have fully embraced the salt of the earth again. Green started scaling down his Pop career in '74 when a girlfriend doused him with boiling grits. Any other man would figure he really did something to piss her off this time. Green on the other hand saw it as a sign from God to correct his ways. It did take a fall off stage in '79 however before the good Lord gained his full attention. Green turned his back on a career that made him rich and started focusing on preaching. Ever the showman Green started using his gifts as an entertainer to woo his congregation in service of the Lord. He traded the screams of lust for the hollers of devotion. Though Green himself has always claimed that his spiritual believes were always a part of his music, it took him a quarter of a century to record some of that seductive silky Soul that made him legendary in the first place.

Al Green wrote the book on suave Soul. Though his albums never gained the stature of of Marvin Gaye's seminal works I wouldn't be surprised if Marvin picked up a trick or two from the reverend. Though three decades old his classic records still sound fresh today. A quick glance at the current Soul market is enough to see the younger generations are still attentive to his teachings. So an album where Green would find himself working with the new breed was just a matter of time. His former two records were with his original producer Willie Michel and what was left of the legendary house band of the Hi studios. Fine as they were, that classic set up could never quite match his work from the seventies. I dare say Hip Hop producer ?uestlove comes quite a bit closer to making us, momentarily, forget them. ?uestlove wisely doesn't deviate too much from Green's classic sound. It is in the surroundings of humming organs, syrupy strings and punchy horn lines, that the Reverend's voice comes out best, floating over it, Soul supreme. Instead of the lounge like Hip Hop beats that mar most of Nu-Soul, ?uestlove enlisted the help of the Booker T & the MGs from Brooklyn, the Dap-Kings. The same band that made Wino Winehouse recent outing so irresistible.

Backed by his new team Green whispers, hollers, screams, moans and pleads his way through this new album as if he never stopped doing secular music. It seems his voice only gained depth over the years, it certainly never lost any of its seductive qualities. Though none of the compositions here can match his best songs, I dare say that "Lay It Down" is a supreme album. Green never relied too much on his strength as a song writer, his voice has the ability to make the most mediocre lyrics come to life. When Green sings you get that flush in your cheeks, those butterflies in your stomach, even at an age of 62 he is contagious with that irresistible playful sexuality that defined his classic albums, he still has that deep blue undertones that will make your heart ache with yearning. Green is still the teacher of love as much as he's the preacher.

"Lay It Down"

MP3 File

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