In 2003, Al Green released “I Can’t Stop”, an album that marked his return to the great soul music, after many long years, that brought him so much success and world wide fame. That album was followed up two years later with “Everything’s OK” delivering some more of his classic soul sound.
With his new release “Lay It Down” the fine soul tradition continues but with some new twists this time around. For one thing, his long time recording partner and producer of countless classic albums, Willie Mitchell, did not participate in the making of this record. The Roots Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson co-produced it along with James Poyser and Al Green. Also, on this record Green has joined together with other artists in an interesting and at times compelling musical collaboration.
Top notch talent like Anthony Hamilton, John Legend, and Corrine Bailey Rae.
Many talented artists have succumbed to the star studded collaboration syndrome on their records resulting in very poor musical performances. But, when its done in the manner that it is, for example, in Santana’s “Supernatural” album or in “Lay It Down” the musical outcome is stellar. Especially on this album, it’s not overdone. It’s done just right.
To Al Green fans “Lay It Down” will sound very familiar. All the well known trademarks are there, the sweet soulful vocals and that amazing falsetto, unchanged and glorious as ever. The dual blasts of the horns and organs.
Among the highlights for me are the two songs that feature Anthony Hamilton, “Lay It Down” and “You’ve Got The Love I Need”. Also, “Standing In The Rain” and “Take Your Time” with Corinne Bailey Rae.
These are all truly marvelous songs and I would go as far to say that it is some of the best music that Al Green has ever made.
Despite the contemporary setting, at least on the surface, that went into the making of “Lay It Down”, the music has a resoundingly old school feeling. Released in 2008 this album would not be out of place at any time during the 1970’s.
It’ll be interesting to see which path AL Green will follow. Will he continue to make these type of records? I surely hope so, because with “Lay It Down”, his third soul album in a row, the winning streak continues.