Out There

God's favorite singer
Your Heart's in Good Hands
Al Green
MCA Records

When Reverend Al gave up girls for God in the late '70s, he was only redirecting his love without sacrificing his passion; he moaned for the Father, groaned for the Son, begged for the Holy Ghost, but even the secular were moved by the spirit, because there's never been another singer who possessed a voice more naturally beautiful and more subtly powerful. With a whisper, Green can save a soul or a thousand; with a sudden and slight rise in his voice, he can break your heart.

Even though this is Green's first "all-secular" album in more than a decade, Your Heart's in Good Hands is soul by way of Salvation: The revisionist who still performs "Let's Stay Together" and now claims it's about Man's relationship with the Lord (while handing flowers to the ladies, cutting it both ways) has resurfaced among the heathens with a collection of capital-L love songs that could be preached from the pulpit--"One Love," "People in the World (Keep On Lovin' You)," "Keep On Pushing Love" (which rhymes with "shout it to the heavens above"), "Love is a Beautiful Thing."

Sometimes it's classic Al, Memphis horns and joyfully gorgeous voice up front, sometimes it's generic R&B with that voice buried underneath ungodly generic back-ups and arrangements; but always it's imbued with the same conviction and devotion, no matter how tepid the material and bland the production from the likes of Aretha-killer Narada Michael Walden. To call Your Heart a disappointment would be way too misleading--half of it ranks up there with Livin' for You at the very least--though the expectations must be weighed against the inevitable: Most of Green's best records (from Let's Stay Together through The Belle Album, with Call Me the mid-point masterpiece) contained at least a handful of songs that'd be considered filler and fluff in the hands and mouths of any other singer.

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Green can redeem the garbage and electrify the dull (the title tune here is a good bad example), and when he wraps that delicate voice around a real keeper ("Keep On Pushing Love" and "Your Love (Is More Than I Ever Hoped For)," two lush flashbacks to a period soul music has long ignored) it becomes the stuff of greatness. In the end, Green turned to God most likely because they took voice lessons together on the shores of the Mississippi when they were kids.

--Robert Wilonsky

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