Al Green: I Can (2003)
Some of the most classic of the classic sounds of 1970s soul were written, arranged, and performed by Al Green and producer Willie Mitchell for the Hi label in Memphis. The two come back together with original Hi studio musicians (and for real soul brothers) Mabon “Teenie” Hodges on guitar and Leroy Hodges on bass, plus guitarist Charles Pitts (supporting axeman with Rufus Thomas and Isaac Hayes, stalwarts for the other legendary Memphis soul label, Stax) and Green’s longtime drummer Steve Potts, among others, for Green’s first secular album in more than a decade.
I Can’t Stop sounds of a piece with Green’s 1970s majesty from the very beginning of its leadoff and title cut, with Green floating up on the top of the world, deeply digging a rock-steady mid-tempo groove, and testifying his love from the bottom of his...well, soul. “You” rings strongly with echoes of “Let’s Stay Together,” very straight-ahead in tempo, melody, and rhythm, which Potts stretches out and snaps back like a rubberband man. “Rainin’ in My Heart” and others stir up Green’s fiery gospel fever.
“My Problem Is You” blasts off with brassy Tower of Power horns, then arches into a nice, loose blues, a gospel sort of church blues featuring plenty of call and response testifying between church choir and organ, before the good Reverend Green rocks the bells all the way up in the steeple with the passion and fire of his final verse. Bubbling in a New Orleans funk-like gumbo, “Too Many” bursts with the flavors of second-line rhythms, two-handed piano, horn charts swinging back in tasty counterpoint commentary, and Jim Spake’s baritone sax squealing and dealing like a clarinet dancing through Dixieland.
No trickery, just good ol’ fashioned gut-wrenching and honest soul. More than that, I Can’t Stop also demonstrates how deeply Green’s personal sound grew engrained in classic modern soul. He burns through the ballad “Not Tonight” not by screaming but by cooing and whispering, slowly and quietly, begging and suggesting, intensely, so much like William “Smokey” Robinson. In another Motown mood, “I’ve Been Waiting On You” moves up-tempo, shaking and finger-popping uptown like Stevie Wonder’s “I Was Made To Love Her.” Green also rocks the up-tempo “I’ve Been Thinking About You” hard and funky, like Otis Redding burning down the Stax Records house.
Tower of Power, Stax Records, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson... yet each of these songs still sounds like classic Al Green, too. I Can’t Stop leads one to wonder, “Hey, if you’re going this good, why would you want to stop?”
Track Listing: 1. I Can't Stop - 3:48; 2. Play to Win - 4:39; 3. Rainin' in My Heart - 4:46; 4. I've Been Waitin' on You - 3:44; 5. You - 4:30; 6. Not Tonight - 4:27; 7. Million to One - 4:53; 8. My Problem Is You - 6:30; 9. I'd Still Choose You - 4:07; 10. I've Been Thinkin' Bout You - 4:06; 11. I'd Write a Letter - 3:54; 12. Too Many - 4:01.
Personnel: Al Green; Charles Chalmers; Jack Hale; Mabon "Teenie" Hodges; Andrew Love; Donna Rhodes; Sandra Rhodes; Lester Snell; Jim Spake; Peter Spurbeck; Scott Thompson; Lannie McMIllian; Joan Gilbert; Robert Claybourne; Beth Luscombe; Anthony Gilbert; Gregory J. Morris; Zach Hochkeppel; Daniel Gilbert; Steve Potts; Jonathan Kirkscey; Liza Zurlinden; New Memphis Strings; Royal Horns.