I Can't Stop, Green's "comeback" album, effectively revisits the style of his 1970-73 Hi Records commercial and artistic peak (1977's The Belle Album was superb but something of a commercial disappointment). The new work is a spirited synthesis of slightly rough-hewn, gospel-inspired Memphis groove with a pronounced backbeat and the lush strings and production of the sleeker soul variants that once came out of Philadelphia (Thom Bell's Philly soul) and Detroit (Motown). Green's voice is unaltered by the passage of time -- one could consider him Marvin Gaye's country-bred cousin, as he has Marvin's suavity, but with a slight rasp charged with sanctified moans and falsetto wails. He's reunited with producer Willie Mitchell and many of the same musicians and singers of his Hi days, including guitarist "Teenie" Hodges and bassist Leroy Hodges, who still lay down a tight, smoldering framework. New guys the Royal Horns provide the same tangy embellishments as their predecessors the Memphis Horns.
Al Green is one of the last and best of his kind, a soul(ful) singer who thrives on the conflicts and joys that occur when spiritually based fervor rubs up against temptations of the heart, and it's comforting to see that after all this time he still has the right stuff. I Can't Stop is, alas, not likely to make the charts these days, but devotees of old-school soul will find it a godsend.
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