Al Green – Let’s Stay Together (1972): Review

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Produced by Willie Mitchell
Label – Hi

Whilst soul music began to decline in popularity in the early 1970s, Forrest City, Arkansas native Al Green laid down his sweet tones with an emotional authenticity that made him the natural successor to the sadly missed Otis Redding. Along with mentor/producer Willie Mitchell at Hi Records, they created some of the most memorable recordings of the era, highlighting Green’s simple, and yet expressive vocal virtuosity, housed in a smooth mix of gentle rhythms and sparse instrumentation. Mitchell knew his gift was Green’s velvet vocal, so his instrumental arrangements are deliberately minimal, allowing the singer to articulate delicate shades of feeling, utilizing his bang on timing and subtle pitch. Although Green had enjoyed moderate success with his third studio album “Al Green Gets Next To You”, it would be “Let’s Stay Together” that would catapult him to stardom. Led by the Gospel influenced top charting title track, the record would reach number eight in the Billboard charts and led to a further four Platinum or Gold selling discs over the following two years.

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There’s a similar pattern throughout “Let’s Stay Together”, as Green pours his heart and soul in to every moment, allied with the sympathetic backing from the Hi Records house band, with sweeping brass notes, underpinned by Charles Hodges’ Hammond. The opener and title track is, of course, the star of the show. The glaring difference between this original composition and all of the covers that have been unwelcomed surrogates, is that Green intimately sings the song to an audience of one, whereas all other versions are overwrought, over-sung, and largely overegged. The singer not only works his own songs beautifully, but his interpretation of The Bee Gees ballad “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” is a lesson in how to drag every scrap of emotion from a lyric, maintaining a sensitive connection that almost renders it his own work. He would later remark “I like to touch a song, to reach into it and pull out the emotion that is lying just under the surface.”

Unrivalled, effectively sweet soul, “Let’s Stay Together” is guaranteed to cut a path, straight and true, to even the hardest of hearts.

8/10

Track Rating
1 – Let’s Stay Together (9)
2 – La-La For You (8)
3 – So Your Leaving (7)
4 – What Is This Feeling (7)
5 – Old Time Lovin’ (7)
6 – I’ve Never Found A Girl (7)
7 – How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (9)
8 – Judy (7)
9 – It Ain’t No Fun To Me (8)

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6 responses to “Al Green – Let’s Stay Together (1972): Review

  1. Aside from a cheap CD compilation I picked up years ago, I’ve never gotten familiar with Al Green’s music. This sounds like a good place to start!

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