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Al Green

Lay It Down
Blue Note

Most producers who supervise reclamation projects for aging stars make the mistake of trying to contemporize the artist's sound — the equivalent of dressing your eighty-something Uncle Jake like a 21st-century club kid. Not so Roots drummer Amir "?uestlove" Thompson, who helmed the Al Green comeback platter Lay It Down. Instead of larding the tracks with loops, he aims for the gorgeous soul simplicity of Green's '70s-era classics. Sure, guest stars like John Legend turn up — but the focus stays on Green, who seems invigorated by the pristine settings heard on the title track, "Too Much" and the rest, including elegant horn work and Thompson's approximation of the singular Hi Rhythm Section that powered the Reverend's greatest hits. The enjoyable results prove that change isn't always good.

 
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