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Soul Express Album of the Month in June 2008

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Lay It Down
US Blue Note, 2008
1) Lay It Down - (featuring Anthony Hamilton) 2) Just For Me 3) You've Got the Love I Need - (featuring Anthony Hamilton) 4) No One Like You 5) What More Do You Want From Me 6) Take Your Time - (featuring Corinne Bailey Rae) 7) Too Much 8) Stay With Me (By the Sea) - (featuring John Legend) 9) All I Need 10) I'm Wild About You 11) Standing In the Rain

  Lay It Down ( 48449) was very skilfully launched with advance videos and articles about bringing the real deal back – reintroducing the hit-making 70s sound by integrating it with today’s music climate – but now that we finally have the CD here it must be admitted that the expectations were not completely over the top.  The set was produced by Al Green ( together with his main musicians on this album – James Poyser (keys), Ahmir Thompson (drums), Chalmers Alford (guitar) and Adam Blackstone (bass).  Those five also form the basic writing team for all the new songs and – what’s especially noteworthy – Brooklyn’s Dap Kings are on horns and Larry Gold orchestrated and conducted live strings on five tracks on the set.

  Anthony Hamilton is featured on the soft and smooth title slowie, although Al himself brings some edge to it with his inspired vocal performance.  The next four songs (Just For Me, You’ve Got the Love I Need, No One Like You, What More Do You Want From Me) are all melodic beat ballads – or at times closer to bouncing mid-pacers – and here you can’t avoid falling into nostalgia and thinking about Poppa Mitchell’s production work with Al over thirty years ago.  The intimate Stay with Me (By the Sea) – featuring John Legend – and the haunting All I Need are quite similar in structure to those four above.

  There are two very slow and sensitive songs, Too Much and Take Your Time, and on the latter one Corinne Bailey Rae is singing a duet with Al.  She’s also one of the co-writers.  So far the music has been burning on quiet fire and only on the two concluding songs the tempo picks up a bit.  Al’s own song, Standing in the Rain, is a good, gutsy way to finish the album.  On first hearings the CD may sound rather monotonous, but time will bring forth distinctions in melodies and make you appreciate this project even more.

Heikki Suosalo

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