Monday, May 12, 2008

Al Green's Latest a Slow-Growing Stunner

By Evan Rytlewski
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  After the one-two punch of Al Green's solid comeback albums I Can't Stop and Everything's OK, I set my expectations a touch too high for Lay It Down, Green's much-hyped album with the visionary Roots drummer ?uestlove and a host of respectable, younger neo-soul ambassadors. The pairings and pre-press suggested an aggressive, ambitious album, which Lay It Down is most certainly not the mood here is decidedly mellow. So are Green's vocals. He still has the pipes, but he cut back on the gymnastics this time out.

  So Lay It Down doesn't make much of an initial impression, but the more I listen to it, the more impressed I am. Unlike Everything's OK, a frantic, hollered album that captivates immediately but doesn't offer much replay-value, the songs here stick. Finding a cozy but never kitschy balance between the Hi organ swoops of vintage Al Green records and the crisp and clean warmth of modern neo-soul - really, a logical the record feels every bit as lived in as Green's classic output, something that, for all their power, Green's previous comeback albums could never claim. The smooth cuts are smooth, accented by lovely backing vocal arrangements, and without throwing off the late-night vibe, a handful of tracks revisit the punchy, light funk of Green's Belle Album, an odd one-off record filled with promising dropped ideas. The more I listen to this disc, the more I realize how fulfilling it is to finally hear Green tie up those loose threads. Lay It Down doesn't come on strong, but neither did Green's best albums.

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