Monday, June 16, 2008


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)


Comrade Kevin said...

I love soul and though I too love dissonant art rock, it has to have some semblance of a melody to capture my attention.

I do like Al Green, but I've found his back catalog outside of the hits to be lacking in the same quality as his A-sides. But then again, I'm rather picky, and nothing is better to me than the first proper Curtis Mayfield solo album.

jeff cothren said...

Yes! Love Al Green, that silky soul, but light, voice, muted rhythms, and low-key sensuality.

Liberality said...

I love me some Al Green.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Although I can't say I have ever really cottoned to the soul sound, with the exception perhaps of Scottish northern soul, I do believe that you are correct that a few snippets of Al Green would be just the smoothness needed to round out a great mix.

And I had no idea he was still making music. Great tip.

Westcoast Walker said...

Thanks for the comments all - it looks like to some degree or another we are all down with Al in one wya or another.

For me, I couldn't listen to a steady diet or album after album consecutively, though when I throw a few of his tracks on a mix it adds an amazing degree of warmth, those type of songs that have that rare capacity to involuntarily form a wide grin on my face. That in itself is a rare gift.

Dean Wormer said...

I love me some soul and Al Green as well.

PJ said...

I'm also down with the soulful Rev, I've got a greatest hits cd of hits which I play when I need that smooth soul.