Al Green‘s new album, Lay It Down, doesn’t sound like a return to his early-’70s style. It sounds like it was literally recorded back then and just now brought out of the vault. But unlike his last two would-be comeback projects, this one wasn’t helmed by the producer who actually cut those classics with him, Willie Mitchell; Green’s new collaborators, Ahmir ”?uestlove” Thompson (of the Roots) and James Poyser (a frequent Erykah Badu collaborator), have taken an even greater interest in painstakingly re-creating that sound.
Before listening to Al Green's Lay It Down, every listener has a sense of what they are about to experience. Vintage. Throwback. Traditional. Such words come tumbling out just prior to that first flush of an organ or that swift crack of a snare. Warm. Tender. Gentle. These feelings envelop the ….
The big question that greets listeners encountering Al Green's third Blue Note album, Lay It Down, is: what happens when you put that amazing soul-drenched voice in the hands of hip-hop producers Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson of the Roots and James Poyser, and add a slew of superstar guests? Answer: a killer Al Green soul album. Thompson and Poyser weren't interested in straying far from the classic sound Green and producer Willie Mitchell created at Hi Records in the 1970s, but they did want to place it in a more contemporary -- albeit analog -- setting. Green cut his previous offerings for the label -- 2003's I Can't Stop and 2005's Everything's OK -- with Mitchell, and the results were good, not great, albums because Green's sound was simply re-created nostalgically.