Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Al Green: The Absolute Best [The Right Stuff/Hi, 2004]
Less schlock-prone than any of his peers among the great 20th-century singers except Billie Holiday, Al Green has never had his name on a bad album. This two-disc exploitation (with a second four-disc box due later in 2004) is superb throughout, two previously unreleaseds included. It would be a spendthrift purchase for any owner of Al Green's Greatest Hits, all 15 of whose selections it duplicates (two in alternate versions), or the previous box, Anthology. But the 19 non-Greatest Hits tracks--all of classic '70s vintage, topped by "Simply Beautiful," "Love Ritual," "Rhymes," and "Strong as Death (Sweet as Love)"--are markedly sweeter and sharper than those on the remarkably schlocky More Greatest Hits. Caveat emptor or dig it as the case may be. [Blender: 4]