Al Green: Full of Fire

During the halcyon years when Al Green was notching one gold record after another, reviewers began to wonder aloud how much more mileage the singer and his producer, Willie Mitchell, could get out of their "formula." Now the hits are coming less frequently, but the formula, if that's what it is, is intact. It seems that Green and Mitchell are capable of going on and on in the same vein. Their music may not spark that exhilarating flash of discovery anymore, and it may not make the Top Ten, but it's never dispirited or routine.

The sound isn't so much a formula as a fixed set of procedures and a familiar cast of characters. The band that gave Green's first hits their Memphis punch has survived without any personnel changes, Mitchell continues to arrange and engineer the recordings himself, and Green is still a unique stylist who can make recycled material sound stunningly fresh.

Despite its promising title, Full of Fire is mainstream Green, without the occasional departures of his last few albums. Most of the songs move along in a medium-tempo groove; the chord changes give the singer a chance to show off his feeling for unusual note choices; and at least two or three tracks are lively enough to stand out.