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Originally Published at the LA Times

3.5 stars out of 4

Woody Allen once opined that 80 percent of success is showing up, an adage that proves especially accurate when applied to the music of Al Green. Since the 62-year-old son of a sharecropper paired with Willie Mitchell for 1969’s “Green Is Blues,” every time he shows up in the recording booth he brings one thing that few performers can match: namely, his now-fabled, almost extraterrestrially gorgeous voice, a delicate but rich timbre that reaches hard-to-reach notes as though it came equipped with a stepladder.

Of course, Green has had his share of missteps in his 40-plus-year recording career, but more often than not, the mere presence of his seraphic croon is good enough to turn a mundane song into a work of beauty. Luckily for Green, the tunes on “Lay On Down,” his third effort on the Blue Note label, are more than serviceable. Ditching Mitchell (who had produced Green’s last two records) in favor of Roots maestro Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson and James Poyser, the arrangements are meticulous and supple, with the trio wisely enlisting red-hot neo-soulsters the Dap Kings and Philly R&B legend Larry Gold for horns and strings, respectively.

As for Green, his voice sounds as though it’s been preserved in amber, with the ordained minister still blessed with a limitless register that he gainfully employs throughout the record’s 45-minute length. Tracks like the funky finale, “Standing in the Rain,” prove that though Green might be able to qualify for the AARP, he can still get down, while the swooning title track amply demonstrates that Green still knows his way around a ballad better than anyone. Featuring some of the Reverend’s finest work in years, Green’s latest is proof positive that as important as it is to show up, you still need to know how to lay it down.
Buy Al Green-Lay It Down

Download:
MP3: Al Green-“No One Like You”
MP3: Al Green-“Standing in the Rain”

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