Album: Al Green

I Can't Stop, Blue Note
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The Independent Culture

It has been 17 years since Al Green last worked with Willie Mitchell, the producer of all his Seventies classics and deviser of one of the most distinctive styles in popular music. So this reunion album is to be welcomed on that level at least. And up to a point, I Can't Stop is an enjoyable enough attempt to recapture former glories, with languid, strutting funk grooves furnishing undemanding backdrops for the Reverend Al's vocal excursions, and "A Million to One" borrowing the rhythm and structure of "Let's Stay Together" virtually wholesale. But it all sounds a bit too busy, a touch too overworked: where Mitchell would once leave plenty of space to showcase Green's delicate, ecstatic voicings - just a prompt of horns or organ against that trademark flat snare, clipped guitar and discreet curtain of strings - here the instruments crowd the singer, with the horns especially over-assertive, entirely lacking the peculiar enervated quality of the Seventies sides. More serious, though, is the lack of compulsion in these performances, a shortfall in emotional conviction exemplified by the reduction of Green's gift to a series of gimmicky squeals. Don't get me wrong, I love to hear Al Green squeal; but here the spirit seems to hit him with a dubious regularity, and he never really seems that bothered by it.