Album Reviews

Al Green LAY IT DOWN [Blue Note]


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It may not be the first set of secular music he's recorded since his heyday three decades ago, but it feels appropriate enough to call Al Green's Lay it Down a comeback album, and it's even more fortunate that this has very little to do with the album's cushy guestlist, which includes the Roots' ?uestlove on drums and production duty, as well as vocalists Anthony Hamilton, John Legend and Corinne Bailey Rae. And while such a bevy of youngsters alongside a legend past his prime might scream either desperation for relevance or an attempt to crossover to more youthful markets (think Supernatural-era Santana), that is thankfully far from the truth on Lay it Down. The album works because Green's collaborators aren't here to give him a musical makeover-they are simply humble students in the presence of a master whose talents have not waned in his time away from the spotlight.

And since the album seems to be about celebrating Green's legacy, it's only fitting that the tracks feel distinctively vintage, often emulating the feeling of the singer's most ubiquitous hits to solid results (though the slightly canned tone of the brass might leave you wanting more). But more importantly, Green's voice seems impermeable to aging, and he handles this set with grace and flair, even throwing it all out on the melodic highlight "I'm Wild About You."

As one of the last and most significant soul giants still standing, Green has nothing left to prove, though Lay it Down is a welcome effort, impressive for the way it casually reaffirms what we've known all along, and even more pleasant for the way it shows that we don't have to wait until the greats become the late greats to celebrate their life and their art.

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