I love pretentious and dissonant art rock just like any reasonable person does, however, lately I have been entranced by the smooth and soulful sounds of the one and only Al Green. His voice has that rare ability to stimulate a portion of my brain that only usually awakens after a long sought after dose of sunlight caresses my brow (which has been a rare occurrence lately in Vancouver until this point, hence my previous angst filled posting)
I recently picked up his latest album "Lay It Down" which was produced in part by ?uestlove (aka Questlove) of The Roots. It is a classic old school soul album and you could easily close your eyes and pretend to be driving in some big gas guzzling beast of a car while listening to your AM radio circa 1974. By the virtue of the fact that it is actually Al Green it avoids sounding derivative, though admittedly having a few subtle hip-hop or more contemporary elements in at least a track or two might have added just enough of a touch to let you know that it is in fact the 21st century.
Having said all that, I suppose Al Green can do whatever he wants and it is evident that Questlove produced this record out of great affection for the artist. Reportedly, he wanted his own "Rick Rubin moment" and decided that if Rubin could produce a legend like Johnny Cash (or Jack White producing Loretta Lynn) than he needed a legend of his own, hence the collaboration with Green.
I am glad Quest did this, as this latest offering redeems Green from some more recent mediocre offerings. By stripping it down to the essential elements the rightful instrument that is showcased is Green's warm and endearing vocals. It is a refreshingly straight forward record that has no illusions about what it is meant to be, basically a classic sounding Al Green record on par with his classic mid 70's work.
Anyways, even if Al Green isn't your thing and you can't sit through a whole album you might be hard pressed not to at least find a few tracks where his silky smooth voice could add a little sweet lovin' to your day. I suggest getting reacquainted with Al this summer and recommend throwing a few classic tracks on a playlist or mix CD to add even more sunlight to your mental landscape.
(Also, link here for a classic 70's performance of "Take Me To The River" circa 1970's Soul Train)