Al Green

Lay It Down is easily the right Rev.'s best in five years—in other words, since his last Blue Note outing. This time around, though, a myriad of acolytes pay homage to the golden-throated god by guesting on a disc almost as essential as anything in the Hi Records back catalog. And here Green and Co. (a crew that prominently includes ?uestlove) make tangible the sound of long-ago church-pew Sunday mornings spent making up for all those sinful Saturday nights: the sound of strings and horns commingling with Green's break-your-heart, break-a-sweat falsetto that's a little rougher than it used to be (but so effin' what).

Also joining in for the Hall of Fame revue: John Legend (who probably owes Al a small fortune in back taxes), Anthony Hamilton (no legend or, for that matter, Legend) and Corrine Bailey Rae, who takes her sweet, sweet time on "Take Your Time," the closest thing to an immortal Al Green track as you can get without a wayback machine. Which isn't to say this album's absolutely, track-for-track perfect: ?uest's on a quest to make history, which he does by remaking it note for note—not a bad way to spend an hour, but when the back catalog (which is to say, everything released from 1970 till '77's The Belle Album) beckons from the shelf, this'll be the last man standing. Except "Take Your Time," a keeper in any decade.

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