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December 2003

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Al Green
I Can't Stop
  Blue Note Records

Al Green

Ever bemoan the fact that they don’t make soul music the way they used to, music that sounds as good as before and that is not some bastard son of disco music?

 Apparently, you’re not alone.

One of the classic artist/producer teams of all-time has decided to have another go at it: I Can’t Stop is a brand new Willie Mitchell-produced album from soul star Al Green, and it’s a beauty. In fact, it is virtually indistinguishable from the classic Hi records Green released in the ‘70s, except for the fact that it’s actually on the venerable Blue Note label.

Part of the reason for the classic sound, aside from the particular chemistry that arises when Green and Mitchell sit down to work on a song, is the presence of two of the Hodges brothers, Teenie on guitar and Leroy on bass, and the exact same trio of backup vocalists as was used on all the classic hits, Donna and Sandra Rhodes and Charlie Chalmers. No prerecorded drum pattern was used, the five-man horn section and the eight-person string section were recorded at the same sessions, and, best of all, Green’s voice is as stunning as ever.

He’s also unapologetically romantic, as the sole song subject of these 12 new songs attests: it’s love, baby. “I’ve Been Waiting on You” is probably the most irresistible of the lot, but there’s not a dud in the bunch.

Were I to come up with one shortcoming, I’d point out a few grammatical inaccuracies, and the last couple of songs do rely a little too much on lyrical clichés, but that’s being over-critical. Just listen to these punchy horns, to those sweet harmonies, to these string-hued ballads (I guarantee Green is going to do a killing again with the ladies with this newest set of songs).

There’s just one word for it: a classic. Again.

--- Benoît Brière

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