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Al Green Bares His Soul With Rare Tracks

Times Pop Music Critic

Writers of album liner notes are often so generous with their praise that they end up elevating even the most ordinary subjects to near-legendary status.

But writer Colin Escott isn’t guilty of overstatement when he declares in the notes for veteran soul singer Al Green’s just-released “Love Ritual” album: “The 1970s had barely dawned before it was obvious that Al Green had inherited the crown that had belonged to Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Clyde McPhatter to become the master of contemporary black music.”

Escott, a Canadian musicologist, is equally on target when he also suggests that no more compelling male soul singer has emerged in the two decades since Green began recording in Memphis with producer Willie Mitchell. Among the team’s classic hits: “Tired of Being Alone” and “I’m Still in Love With You.”

Green has made a partial return to secular music in his new A&M; album after years of recording only gospel music, but “Love Ritual,” a collection of rare and previously unreleased tracks--recorded between 1968 and 1975--is far more striking.

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The material on the MCA Records package ranges from such surprises as a soul-accented, 1969 version of the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (Green’s first single for Hi Records) and a Creedence-accented shuffle arrangement on 1976’s “Love Is Real.”

Among the nine other tracks on the CD: a radical remix of the version of “Love Ritual” that appeared on a 1975 album and a seven-minute extension of the eight-minute rendition of “Beware” that appeared on a 1973 LP. The latter is a bonus track that does not appear on the vinyl album or cassette of “Love Ritual.”

BUCKLEY TRIO: Enigma Retro has just released three albums in CD by the late Tim Buckley, a singer-songwriter whose deeply personal and widely eclectic music in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s combined jazz, folk, country and blues influences in a richly original way. They are “Blue Afternoon” (from 1969), “Starsailor” (1970) and “Greetings From L.A.” (1972). The label is also releasing late next week two other Buckley albums, “Sefronia” (1973) and “Look at the Fool” (1974). In addition, a live, two-disc set, recorded in London in 1968 and featuring some songs never before on an album, is due in September.

BUDGET BIN: *** Willie Nelson and Leon Russell’s “One for the Road” (Columbia)--This was one of the oddest of Nelson’s many musical partnerships, certainly no substitute for the prized duets with Waylon Jennings. Still, there is something engaging about the 57-minute budget collection (a double album on a single disc) as Nelson and Russell rework songs they must have heard at dance halls while growing up in their respective Texas and Oklahoma hometowns. The music ranges from gospel and Western swing to pop and early rock.

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