It took me a little big to “get” Al Green. Years ago, I knew “Let’s Stay Together” and maybe nothing else. And the first album of his I heard struck me as “slick” (though, admittedly, only in relation to like Otis or someone like that). Since that time I’ve basically flipped on him, and now I see him as perhaps the greatest soul singer of the ’70s, someone who I can listen to endlessly.
This is a pretty good set of songs. Green’s originals are decent – especially “Tired of Being Alone”, the one song you likely know. It’s not always true that a great soul singer can come up with decent material. But Green certainly can.
And the covers are strong. Notably, there are two covers of recent pop hits which Green does an excellent job on. I agree with those who think his version of “I Can’t Get Next to You” is superior to the original (shock, horror!). It’s likely an aesthetic preference, as I don’t really like Motown. And “Light My Fire” is…different. I’m still on the fence about where it ranks for me personally. I’m not a fan of the original, actually, but I like me Julie Driscoll’s version. Regardless, Green’s take is distinct, which is what matters.
The vibe is pretty classic Memphis/southern with restrained support compared to many soul subgenres. It might not be as gritty as some Stax records but, to the extent that it is overdone, that’s in the background. The backing vocals, for example, are mixed pretty damn low in comparison to Green and some of the band. It’s a funky soul record for this early in the ’70s, which is also good.
It’s a pretty great example of why Al Green is great. It’s probably not the best, but it certainly makes sense why it helped launch his career.