This, Al Green’s second secular album of the decade following 2003’s I Can’t Stop Moving, is sweet soul music. After a series of personal traumas in the 1970’s Green was born again. In 1976 he became an ordained pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis and The Reverend increasingly turned his gaze and undoubted musical ability towards gospel, making only fleeting appearances in the secular musical world.
Everything’s Okay reunites Green with Willie Mitchell, the producer of his classic ’70s output. It’s obvious from the opening bars of the title track that the magic has been rekindled. Shimmering strings, a funky guitar lick and Al Green’s incomparably beautiful voice all blend like heaven. This is the first non-gospel record that Green has released where he has included his religious status in the title. He explained that the record is a split between the two sides of life, the weekday secular and the Sunday worship.
Green’s voice is still a thing of wonder. It can swoop from a growl to a spine tingling falsetto in the space of a single line. Despite the range and passion in Green’s voice the amount of control he displays is amazing. The voice fits into the songs like another instrument, never attempting to show off or preen. The voice is a slave to the rhythm, the music the perfect framing for that voice. The backings are fluid, the voice full of fire. The tension between his ability and power and the discipline he shows, allows the material to glow with an understated passion.
It’s no accident that this record sounds so steeped in the classic soul sound. The session players on the record include Stax house band guitarist’s Booby Manuel and Skip Pitts along side Booker T and MG‘s drummer Steve Potts. When you add the vocals of Al Green this is like the Beatles reforming for fans of ’60s and ’70s soul.
On Magic Road, Green’s voice battles and harmonises with the punchy heavyweight brass and restrained swinging bass. I Can Make Music’s harmonica and piano swell slowly, the chords climbing as Greens voice is all tenderness and wonder. It makes like a great-lost ’70s soul classic. The lyrics are a hymn of praise to the healing nature of music, that famous falsetto appearing during the closing call and response.
That something as hackneyed and as endless covered as You Are So Beautiful can be injected with such verve and performed with such passion is real testament to the talent of Al Green. It’s a stunning version. Green’s voice twists and turns, finding hidden gold in the melody. The subtle backing of organ, mellow strings and woodwind showcasing the depth of the vocal performance, its spell binding and beautiful. I am sure he could sing from Yellow Pages and make it sound like angels sighing. That voice is truly a gift from God.