Al Green is a bit like former Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders -- an all-time great who took himself out of the game prematurely, leaving fans to wonder what might have been. After issuing one brilliant side after another throughout the first half of the '70s, this most effortless of sex symbols ended his internal battle between the sacred and the profane by devoting himself to praise-and-worship music. Although Reverend Al's first platter after making that decision -- 1977's The Belle Album -- was every bit as glorious as those that preceded it, the LP's lack of commercial success pushed him from the limelight that fed his genius. Every now and then over the years that followed, he unleashed a ditty that approached his previous peaks, but even the best of them lacked the thrilling tension that rippled through unimpeachable salvos such as "Let's Get Married" and "Take Me to the River." Fortunately, I Can't Stop, a better-than-average comeback disc from last year that reunited Green with producer Willie Mitchell and other cohorts from his glory days, shows that he's still capable of summoning his musical charms. With Ray Charles gone and James Brown unhinged, he's arguably the last true soul legend still standing. It's terrific to have him back on the field.
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