Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Al Green: Lay It Down [Blue Note, 2008]
Between producer ?uestlove's command of tradition, including cannier drums than Green has had since Al Jackson Jr. was taken from us, and the 62-year-old singer's skillfully tended chops, this sounded fine straight off. But the formula seemed slightly pat, and I didn't hear a "Call Me," much less a "Love and Happiness." So I put it away, came back, immersed, and noticed two things. 1) The first four or five tracks work as songs, the instant minor classic the one that clarifies a basic principle: "Your love is just for me/It's just for me/It's just for me, for me, for me/It's just for me." 2) No Jesus, which some count a failing, but not secular me. Except for the finale--"Write this down if you can/I'm a cold, hard-working man," so I did--here is that rare thing, a credible album entirely devoted to connubial bliss. True, Green spends more time supplicating than celebrating, and probably fabricated the whole scenario. But he knows his subject, and he doesn't need Jesus to lay it down. A-