Al Green - I'm Still in Love With You

Al Green
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As raw as that lopsided ‘fro denotes, if Al Green hadn't so brilliantly covered the Righteous Bros, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, The Temptations et al., we and the musical colleagues of his 1970-77 run would have no reference for this alien being, who has been unequivocally ordained the last soul singer of the ‘70s. Two truths of Al Green and Willie Mitchell: 1.) nothing before or after sounded like the production of Willie Mitchell's Memphis-based studio, mixing and musicians, and 2.) no one before or after Al Green has vocalized the perfect balance of sanctified and sensuous, whether on his originals or the covers he would eventually own.


It is impossible to think of Al Green on I'm Still In Love With You and not think of the definition of soul. In this context, "soul" must be defined as the marriage of gospel and blues, that is, the root of African-American music: field hollers and Negro spirituals-the exorcism of pain through song to God, the Father; cries in praise of life despite despair, or pleas for freedom from it.

In this definition of soul and soul singing, Sam Cooke is undoubtedly the Father. But, unlike the golden altar boy or choir lead Cooke undoubtedly represented in both appearance and voice, Al Green was representative of the presiding pastor in pure harmonic mode. With a 2nd tenor/baritone, Green commanded a different set of emotions whenever he chose to access his pulpit voice. It was moving and spiritually resonated in a different way than any choir could convey. It was the voice of guidance and advice as opposed to the aural co-signing of misery-and it was welcomed.

The emotionally vexing aspect of Green is that he was just as persuasive on the sensuous as he was on the sanctified. As the most emotionally astute vocalist to date, on rousing cuts like "I'm Glad You're Mine" and "Love and Happiness," he was able to cry, yearn, and arouse at will, depending on what the lyric called for.

While Green had a firm handle on the vocal department, Mitchell assembled one of the grittiest southern session crews to accompany and support Green's unique texture. Combined Mitchell and Green created a truly new sound. While Detroit, Muscle Shoals, and even Memphis were already going full steam with their own brand of soul, Green and Mitchell harvested something completely separate from any factory or assembly line recordings, though they recorded and released them in a similar fashion. A true testament to the passion of driven men, through Hi Records Al Green and Willie Mitchell produced four stellar, critically and commercially acclaimed recordings within 24 months-a feat never before or never since mirrored.

Following decadence is often an insurmountable task. How does one follow their own greatness and feed a now heightened expectation from the masses? A nonplussed Al Green & Willie Mitchell seemed not to miss a beat. Instead of basking in the afterglow of Al's newfound pop success with the immediate American classic "Let's Stay Together," within six months they released what very well may have been part two of the Let's Stay Together sessions, I'm Still in Love With You. Arguably, I'm Still In Love With You an even more consistent and excellent project than its predecessor.

Though the album leads with the similar sound and feel of LST, with the title cut and the percussive passion of "I'm Glad You're Mine," the album's most distinctive tune enters with a whisper. "Simply Beautiful" is as unconventional as soul music gets in '72. With merely his acoustic guitar accompanying him, Green silently lullabies his paramour (and any unassuming listener) with this ballad. It's unconventional in that it barely presents a chorus, and the verses are nearly indistinguishable, yet the tune holds us all completely engaged for its entirety. This is Al Green's genius encapsulated-he is able to capture and contain until he's ready to release you to whomever it is you need to shared said emotion with.

Keeping with his tradition of country covers, Kris Kristofferson's "For the Good Times" adds another patiently passionate dose of Green's re-inventive magic. Two more originals, "Look What You Done for Me" and "One of These Good Old Days," turns the project from great to a "standard." Every song, save for the unnecessary cover of Orbison's "Pretty Woman," belongs and integrally fits to make this one of 1972's pre-eminent classics alongside Franklin's Young, Gifted & Black & Amazing Grace, O'Jays Back Stabbers and Mayfield's Superfly. This is not just an Al Green staple, but a classic American album, in much the way "Let's Stay Together" continues to stand as an American classic song.

By Reg Jones

 
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