" Movin Up: The Music And Message Of
Curtis Mayfield And The Impressions"
A Very Moving and Uplifting Impression, (08/20/08))
Producers Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson and James Poyser ensure that legendary Soul star (and this album's co-producer) Al Green has plenty of cool textures to work with on Lay It Down. Fashionably stylish with simple yet lush production, this 2008 edition sounds a lot like a late-Sixties Soul record. Add to the mix session players fromJoss Stone's and Angie Stone's bands, plus the Dap-Kings Horns, and the playing is consistently old-school Soul. At times, it's tastefully funky, yet restrained - nowhere near the edgier sounds of Tower of Power, James Brown, or offshoots such as the JB Horns, Maceo Parker, Pee Wee Ellis, or Fred Wesley. But no one expects that kind of Funk from Al Green.
The title track starts things off in classic Green fashion. Green sounds as youthful as he did 40 years ago, talking his way into a soft bed of slow-grinding sound. The pace picks up a bit on "Just for Me" as the Dap-Kings Horns kick it Memphis-style, thus making this track one of the strongest entries on this nifty recording. "You've Got the Love I Need" simmers with attitude aided by vocalist Anthony Hamilton and some awfully tasty licks from guitarist Chalmers "Spanky" Alford.
After the first three tunes, things become a little more laid back. The disc's final two tracks offer a bit of edgy oomph: "I'm Wild About You" benefits from a thumping bass line courtesy of Adam Blackstone, while the closing "Standing in the Rain" boasts cool horn charts from the Dap-Kings. You can almost hear Green smiling as he sings this uptempo finale.
Lay It Down's slow-burning yet solid groove keeps Green's voice at the center at all times, yet the album's main flaw is that it takes very few chances and could have been a lot better if bolder and less dreamy musical decisions were made. But at day's end, it's still sweet to have Al Green making records, and there are at least four tunes here that make this album a worthwhile purchase.
Bob Putignano: www.SoundsofBlue.com