In 1974, Al Green, arguably the most seductive soul man of all time, was involved in a nasty episode concerning a married woman and a plate of hot grits. Soon after, he decided it was better to sing to the Lord than to the ladies, and he parted ways with producer Willie Mitchell, with whom he’d recorded a cluster of transcendent R&B hits. Green reunited with Mitchell in 1985 for a gospel record (He Is the Light), but I Can’t Stop is a true landmark: the first secular collaboration between the two in twenty-seven years. I Can’t Stop was recorded at the same Memphis studio, and with most of the same musicians, as the timeless tracks Green and Mitchell produced for Hi Records in the Seventies were. One listen to the opening title cut reveals that they haven’t forgotten their winning formula. A deep groove, jazzy keyboards, smooth backing vocals, syrupy strings and hard-driving horns frame Green’s lustrous voice as, in time-honored fashion, he alternately praises and pleads with his loved one.
If there’s a flaw, it’s that the production is too sharp; the warm murkiness of Green’s Hi era is much missed. It’s also clear that singing like an angel takes more effort from the Rev. (now fifty-seven) than it once did. Still, three songs — “You,” “Not Tonight” and “Million to One” — find him jumping from impassioned bark to unearthly falsetto with startling ease.
I Can’t Stop may not rival Green’s classics, but it can stand proudly alongside them.