Al Green

Everything's OK

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Al Green's second record for Blue Note reunites the same cast of characters who made his comeback disc, 2003's I Can't Stop, such a success. Willie Mitchell is behind the boards, the cream of old-school Hi musicians is here, and Green hasn't lost a step vocally. In fact, it sounds like he has gained a step somehow; his crazed screams, hollered interjections, and whoops of joy seem more assured and his falsetto is clear and strong. The songs are here, too, with a good mix of uptempo movers (the rollicking "Build Me Up," the high-energy title track, and "Nobody But You") and sweet, string-laden ballads ("Perfect to Me," "Real Love," and "All the Time"). Green sounds on fire most of the time, really letting loose on "Everything's OK," testifying on "Be My Baby," and ripping it up like a kid everywhere else. Mitchell's production is wonderfully organic but also very lush, as there is a higher reliance on strings, background singers, and percussion to fatten up the sound this time out. This is often a sign that the singer is losing it somehow, but there is no cover-up being perpetrated here -- they are just shooting for the richest, lushest sound possible. And getting it, too. Such is the magic that Mitchell and Green conjure that they can rescue duff tracks like the terminally mawkish "You Are So Beautiful" with some unconsciously soulful vocals and subtle production, just like they did in the '70s. Speaking of the '70s, this record marks a step away from the Hi nostalgia of I Can't Stop. There are fewer obvious backward nods in the sound (hardly any of that Hi organ!) and in the songwriting; instead, the duo seem focused on creating a modern soul record with none of the trappings of earlier recordings, and they succeed dramatically. Consider I Can't Stop the rehab assignment in Triple A, while Everything's OK is the home run Green fans have been dreaming about. It may not replace Let's Stay Together or I'm Still in Love With You, but you could play it back to back with either of them and not hear much difference other than time. Too bad about the amateurish cover art, though -- it is the one thing about the record that pales in comparison to Al Green's best.

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