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Al Green

I Can't Stop (Blue Note)

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Al Green's first secular album since 1995's Your Heart's in Good Hands effectively revisits the style of his 1970-'73 Hi Records commercial and artistic peak. The new work is a spirited synthesis of slightly rough-hewn, gospel-inspired Memphis groove, with a pronounced backbeat and the lush strings and production of the sleeker soul variants that once came out of Philadelphia (Thom Bell's Philly soul) and Detroit (Motown).

Green's voice is unaltered by the passage of time -- one could consider him Marvin Gaye's country-bred cousin, as he has Marvin's suaveness, but with a slight rasp charged with sanctified moans and falsetto wails. He's reunited with producer Willie Mitchell and many of the same musicians and singers of his Hi days, including guitarist "Teenie" Hodges and bassist Leroy Hodges, who still lay down a tight, smoldering framework.

Green is one of the last and best of his kind, a soulful singer who thrives on the conflicts and joys that occur when spiritually based fervor rubs up against temptations of the heart, and it's comforting to see that, after all this time, he still has the right stuff.

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