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Testify - The Best of the A&M Years

Al Green

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Album Review

After turning to his ministry full-time in the late '70s, Al Green moved from Hi Records, where he had scored most of his hits, to the religious Myrrh label. But in 1985 he moved back to a secular record company, A&M Records, signaling a renewed interest in the musical mainstream, even if he continued to record material with inspirational lyrics. He Is the Light, his debut A&M album, marked a reunion with his Hi producer, Willie Mitchell, and it recreated the Memphis soul sound of their previous collaborations to the point that if one didn't listen to the lyrics too closely, one would think it was one of his '70s albums. Maybe that was the problem. Black pop music had moved on since those days, and He Is the Light didn't reach the charts, although one of its tracks, "Going Away," won a gospel Grammy (his sixth in the genre since 1981). For 1987's Soul Survivor, he took a more contemporary approach, the production sounding like a Luther Vandross record on occasion, and covered pop songs like "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" and "You've Got a Friend." (The latter, written by Carole King, a Jew, wasn't composed with Jesus in mind, of course.) The result was some chart action, including Top 40 R&B status for the Grammy-winning "Everything's Gonna Be Alright." In 1988, Green accompanied Annie Lennox on a revival of "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" for the film Scrooged and they made the pop Top Ten. I Get Joy, his third and last A&M release, mixed approaches and sold modestly, though it produced the Top 20 R&B hit and Grammy-winner "As Long as We're Together." Testify: The Best of the A&M Years traces this history well. Just don't buy it expecting Al Green's greatest hits.

Biography

Born: 13 April 1946 in Forrest City, AR

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Al Green was the first great soul singer of the '70s and arguably the last great Southern soul singer. With his seductive singles for Hi Records in the early '70s, Green bridged the gap between deep soul and smooth Philadelphia soul. He incorporated elements of gospel, interjecting his performances with wild moans and wails, but his records were stylish, boasting immaculate productions that rolled along with a tight beat, sexy backing vocals, and lush strings. The distinctive Hi Records sound that...
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