Lay It Down (Blue Note)
There's soul and then there's soul, and it's all too easy to hear when someone's faking it -- for proof, see that popular Fox series American Karaoke. Despite the vocal trills and dehydrated histrionics that have come to characterize the genre in the post-Whitney era, soul and R&B still have the power to sway minds and move bodies. The Reverend Al Green knows that, and this new album, a heated collection of soft-soul songs that sound as though the early '70s never ended, serves as a sweet reminder. The man was a giant before turning to gospel, where he became equally known, but Green lives and breathes soul, and it's evident here. "No One Like You," a slow jam that closes with a sleazy little keyboard riff, melds beautifully into "What More Do You Want From Me," one of those songs that's so immediately catchy it feels like you know it already. "Standing in the Rain," which out-Staxes Stax and sounds like it was a lot of fun to record for the people partying in the background. There's an outreach element to Lay It Down, too; Green collaborates with modern-day stars Anthony Hamilton, Corinne Bailey Rae and John Legend on several of the tracks. Predictably, Green outshines them all.