In his unequaled string of Seventies hits, Al Green effortlessly invested his sexuality with a spiritual dimension that he made sound perfectly appropriate. Now, in his new incarnation as a preacher, he comes close — just as effortlessly — to reversing the equation. Higher Plane may be the most intimately seductive gospel album ever recorded.
Side one is merely good, showing off Green’s undiminished ear for fine shadings in its graceful horn charts, delicate strings and, most of all, in the curves and slides of the singer’s voice. But it’s with the trio of cuts that climaxes side two — “Amazing Grace” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” buttressing the compelling, extraordinarily sustained “His Name Is Jesus” — that this LP lives up to its title, suggesting that if Al Green’s meaningful ambiguity is his way of dealing with personal relationships, gospel’s staunch verities are his way of understanding the world.