Although he reunited with famed producer Willie Mitchell for his previous two albums, legendary R&B singer Al Green has delved into the world of neo-soul to create his latest CD, and the resulting songs sound both classic and contemporary at the same time. Lay It Down must’ve struck a chord, because the album entered the Billboard Hot 200 at number 9 a couple of weeks back, marking Green’s highest debut on the chart.
The 62-year-old Green has unleashed some of his best material in decades, occasionally rivaling his early-1970s hits, and his vocals are still amazing. He can leap from a gravelly, sexy growl to a choir boy’s falsetto in the space of a few notes. It might be noted that nowadays, hitting the high ones sounds like it actually takes some effort.
The album’s producers are drummer Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson (of the Roots) and keyboardist James Poyser. Among the other musicians are the Dap-King Horns and sidemen with combined experience playing for Amy Winehouse, Sharon Jones, Joss Stone, Jill Scott, and DJ Jazzy Jeff.
Thompson and Poyser bring a richness and warmth to the affair, such as on the burning-flame romance, complete with strings, of the title track, or that inescapably funky but subtle bass-drums lockstep of “You’ve Got the Love I Need.” Both tunes also feature gospel-rich guest vocals by Anthony Hamilton. Corinne Bailey Rae and John Legend are in attendance as well. Hearing Green lead them through their paces, twining his voice with theirs, is an experience that can only be called sublime. (Blue Note)