Lay It Down

Al Green surrounds himself on his new album with younger stars, including John Legend, Corinne Bailey Rae and the Roots' ?uestlove. It's retribution in action: For years, the neosoul brigade has been copping the Rev. Al's sound — the plush, subtly psychedelic Memphis soul that Green perfected three decades ago on his sparkling Hi Records albums — so a little payback is only fair. Of course, there's no replicating Green's heaven-sent voice. On slow-jams like "Too Much," Green's instrument is in remarkable fettle, gliding from burly lower-register growls to an ethereal falsetto. Lay It Down sticks to the classic Seventies template: slow-boiling ballads, awash in strings and brass, with Green cooing oaths of fidelity and hinting at more immediate satisfactions. (The Green-Rae duet "Take Your Time" is the album's supreme booty-call-music moment.) The supporting cast replicates the vintage stylings a touch too meticulously, and Green's singing lacks the turbulence that animated his old masterpieces. But it's hard to find fault with songs like the electrifying title track, where Green whoops, "I want to love you more and more and more!" — a prayer equally fit for the altar or the boudoir.