it’s been about a month since al green released his latest album, lay it down. and i still haven’t had the best opportunity to really digest the music; that’s one of the very few things i miss about being in spain. but i’ve listened to it a substantial amount, and it is good. and not just good by today’s standards; put alongside most of today’s r&b and soul music, it stands head and shoulders above the rest. i mean good in terms of 70s soul. this album belongs with let’s stay together and call me and his other classic 70s records.
there isn’t any fluff on this album. each track is just rich with soul. real, vintage, timeless soul. the whole thing just seems really organic; the way al green sings is so informal and you can hear his adlibs, a few mistakes, and laughter from the recording sessions. it’s so great. it’s organic and at the same time the musicianship is just smooth. smooth and exact, and it’s so good. the musicians on this record are some of the best session musicians around today, and it shows here. tunes like stay with me (by the sea) and just for me both boast incredibly intricate arrangements, but they’re pulled off so well.
listening to this album makes me proud. al green has been around for decades now and is basically a music legend, but in the last twenty years he hasn’t released anything that rivaled his 70s work. the two main people aside from al green responsible for this album are ?uestlove and james poyser, two guys who have been around in music for about fifteen years but have made a name for themselves in the industry. all too often, when artists get older (past like age 50 or so) and start releasing albums into the double digits (i.e. their 17th, 18th studio album, etc.), usually the albums suck. there should be a weird genre strictly for these kinds of albums, because they all seem to sound alike. al green’s i can’t stop, eric clapton’s back home, b.b. king’s 80, stevie wonder’s a time to love, ray charles’s genius loves company, etc. it’s such an interesting thing but they all seem like cookie cutter albums, all straight from the same formula book. there’s always a few ballads, a few sad love songs, maybe one or two jaunty 12-bar blues numbers. but listening to this al green record has impressed me so much because it’s the polar opposite of formulaic pap. there is real soul here. it has the lush sounds of his older, better records, but it just seems a bit shinier, a bit more polished because of better recording techniques than were available in the 70s, and the polish only adds to the richness of this record. it makes me proud to hear an album that my parents, or people who were lucid and impressionable in the 70s, can listen to and say it’s as good as the old soul records they listened to when they were younger. proud because it’s executive produced by one of my favorite producers, a guy known in the hip-hop world as a prolific musician. this album gives ?uestlove so much musician’s cred among adults, it’s great.
pick it up if you haven’t yet. it’s the perfect windows-down album.