Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews
Al Green – Lay It Down- Blue Note
Published on February 8, 2009
(Al Green, vocals; Chalmers “Spanky” Alford, guitar; James Poyser, Hammond B-3 organ, piano, Rhodes, Wurlitzer; Adam Blackstone, bass; Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, drums; Jaguar Wright, background vocals; Mercedes Martinez, background vocals; Neal Sugarman, tenor saxophone; Ian Hendrickson Smith, baritone saxophone; David Guy, trumpet; Anthony Hamilton, vocals; Corrine Bailey Rae, vocals; John Legend, vocals)
For soul music lovers like drummer Ahmir Thompson and keyboardist James Poyser from the rap group The Roots, producing an Al Green album must have been a dream. The two have expertly captured the sound of 70s Al Green, from the sweet strings to the syrupy Hammond B-3 sound, and while it’s not as perfect as Let’s Stay Together, it’s a great addition to an already legendary catalog.
Like so many great singers, it’s not what Green is singing, but how he’s singing it. Quite a few of the lyrical couplets on Lay It Down would even sound cheesy on a Hallmark card, but the way they’re sung, they sound revelatory. Green is assisted on the album by many of the new class of soul singers, including Anthony Hamilton, John Legend, and Corrine Bailey Rae. Hamilton is great on both of the tracks he’s featured on, Lay It Down and You’ve Got The Love I Need. His deep voice is a wonderful counterpoint to Green’s classic falsetto.
Ahmir Thompson’s drumming is as funky as ever, especially on Just For Me and You’ve Got the Love I Need, where he provides a hip-hop sounding backbeat that’s an instant head nodder. James Poyser’s Hammond B-3 playing is a perfect base for Green’s key changes, and The Dap King Horns keep up their restoration of classic horn charts.
The only song that doesn’t match the rest of the album’s quality is the ballad, Take Your Time, Green’s duet with British neo-soul singer Corrine Bailey Rae. The song’s melody isn’t strong enough to buoy its sleepy tempo.
I highly recommend Lay It Down for old school soul fans and neo-soul fans alike. For a man of 62, Green has barely missed a beat and his voice sounds as pure and magical as ever.
TrackList: Lay It Down, Just For Me, You’ve Got the Love I Need, No One Like You, What More Do You Want From Me, Take Your Time, Too Much, Stay With Me By the Sea, All I Need, I’m Wild About You, Standing In the Rain.
– Daniel Krow