LAY IT DOWN
Yes, Al Green has turned to members of the hip-hop generation to invigorate his latest disc, "Lay It Down," but don't worry -- the Reverend hasn't turned to rapping.
There is no awkward, age-inappropriate makeover that renders Green unrecognizable on "Lay It Down": The production work of Ahmir Thompson, better known as the Roots drummer ?uestlove, and keyboardist James Poyser (Erykah Badu, Common) provides only a subtle, reverential freshening. With vintage organ work, guitar chords and crisp horns, along with guest vocals from the current crop of prominent R&B/soul singers, Thompson and Poyser create their own version of the sophisticated, distinctive Hi Records soul sound that helped launch Green to stardom.
"You've Got the Luv I Need" starts off with hard-hitting Memphis percussion and blues guitar, then melts into a sparkling, mellow composition that is a steady platform for Green's powerful voice. Singer Anthony Hamilton's appearance on the song provides an unobtrusive update -- the North Carolina native's emotive Southern comfort vocals are a natural match for Green's style. Other new-schoolers -- John Legend on "Stay With Me (by the Sea)" and Corinne Bailey Rae on the languorous throwback "Take Your Time" -- also do an admirable job of lightly putting their stamp on songs, but have the wisdom to mostly stay out of Green's way.
With his fan club members backing him, Green's growls and precious high notes on the steady groove of "Just for Me," the tortured love song "Too Much" and the sumptuous title track recall the material of 1971's "Al Green Gets Next to You" and 1972's "I'm Still in Love With You" and find the soul great fully of fire and brimming with youthful energy.
-- Sarah Godfrey
Al Green is scheduled to perform on July 15 at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap.
DOWNLOAD THESE:"You've Got the Luv I Need," "Too Much," "Take Your Time"