Al Green – 1972 – Let’s Stay Together
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The title track to Let’s Stay Together has become Al Green’s signature song and a certified r&b classic. The song is one of the definitive Memphis Soul songs with its smooth organ punctuated by horns, Green comes in a low voice and then in the chorus reaches up to a heavenly falsetto. The song became his only number one on the pop charts. The album also contains one of his most underrated songs, a stirring version of the Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart“. Green sings it with a true pain in his voice and the emotion practically oozes out of your speakers. Other excellent songs include “So You’re Leaving“, “I’ve Never Found A Girl” and “Judy“.
Al Green became a bona fide superstar thanks to this all-time classic album. In a way, Al was the natural successor to Otis Redding (both singers had a great many vocal similarities) but Green’s smooth and sensuous style and romantic crooning enabled him to cut across different established formats much to his benefit.
A1 Let’s Stay Together 3:15
A2 La-La for You 3:29
A3 So You’re Leaving 2:53
A4 What Is This Feeling 3:40
A5 Old Time Lovin’ 3:17
B1 I’ve Never Found a Girl 3:37
B2 How Can You Mend a Broken Heart 6:21
B3 Judy 3:44
B4 It Ain’t No Fun to Me 3:27
Prior to this album, Al Green never had a number one song. The title track, “Let’s Stay Together” achieved that status and held it for nine consecutive weeks. Green’s ingenuity produced one of the all-time classics, which has the bounce of a dance cut and the passion of a ballad. The dynamic soul singer’s whispers, animated cries, and riffing enhance his already stirring delivery. This album was sold on the strength of the title track as there were no other selections to grace the Billboard charts. However, this album includes the timeless gem “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” and lesser-known beauties like the exulting “Judy,” the cookin’ testimonial “I Never Found a Girl“, and the soothing blues effort “It Ain’t No Fun to Me“. The Arkansas native and his creative partner Willie Mitchell season these selections with lucid rhythm arrangements complemented by the faint strums of a guitar and brawn, unchiding horns.
This appears to be the one where Al Green really ‘came into his own’, to use a popular expression. He wrote or co-wrote 7 out of the 9 songs, the masterful production from Willie Mitchell has crystallized into a warm, cozy, amalgamation of supple funk and soul, the vocal performances are especially strong (check out the incredible reading of the Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart“) and the house band, including both rhythm section and horn section, deliver the bare minimum and play it perfectly. Al Green got his first #1 hit from the title track, a perfect representation of Al Green’s unique sound that’s equal parts sad song and love song. I suppose most music listeners would put Al Green in the softer category of soul (the genre votes for “smooth soul” bare this out), but it’s only because his gentler side seems to come out more than most of the other big names. He can get pretty damn funky when he wants to as well, one listen to “So You’re Leaving” or “It Ain’t No Fun to Me” should be enough to convince anyone. There’s plenty of ballads too, but there’s also a light touch to the in-between stuff that can’t really be considered true ballads, like “Judy” or “I’ve Never Found a Girl“, with Motown-like string arrangements taking a fairly large role in the song. Either way, Al Green and Willie Mitchell found their own style that totally works, and it was basically perfected up until 1975 (his run of great albums lasts longer than most think it does). Pick this one and the next five records up too, they’re pretty much all the same.
You can also enjoy his masterpiece “I’m still in love with you” in our back pages here.