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Monday, May 19, 2008

Cheap eMusic, Acid and Green's Leak

First off, I should mention that if anyone out there is an eMusic subscriber, it might be worth your while to swing by Circuit City some time soon. They have starter subscription packs that work like booster packs for the blow out price of $4.98 for 65 tracks. A really good deal, considering the usual eMusic booster price is something like $19.95 for 50.

Unfortunately, you can't still get Ray Baretto's Acid through eMusic (though a bunch of other Fania titles are available, seems they switched distributors and not everything is through the new one yet) but it's an album worth checking out. I'm no expert, but I think it's considered a high point of boogaloo music and it's one of those albums I come back to often.

About the only track on there you might know is "Deeper Shade of Soul" which, of course, was sampled by Urban Dance Squad ages ago. There's also "The Soul Drummers," which has appeared on a comp or two. Really though, it's all killer Latin soul which kind of makes you glad to be alive.

I also wanted to mention the new Al Green. Yeah, I was naughty and downloaded a leak. I've been a big fan of his for ages and was pretty impressed with his two previous comeback albums. (I think I did a review of one for Nuvo. I really can't remember.) I'm also a big fan of ?uestlove, so when I found out he was producing this time around, I couldn't wait to hear the results.

It's kind of ironic that this album nails the whole mid 70s vibe better than "I Can't Stop" and "Everything's OK" considering those two albums were produced by Green's old producer (Willie Mitchell) at the old Royal Studios with as many of the old musicians as are still around. "Lay It Down" features younger cats such as the Dap-Tone horns and a younger producer but really sounds like someone dug up some old tapes and put them out. Just roll the treble off a big and compress it a hair to get the sound of those old 45s and you'd think it was some mid-70s Hi release that fell through the cracks.

The problem is, while "Lay It Down" may have vibe to spare, the material is weaker this time around. Green's two previous Blue Note albums each had a single or two worth of classic stuff (and, after all, Green is a singles artist at heart.) This time around, there just isn't anything that gets under your skin like an Al Green classic should.

Add to that a few completely unnecessary guest shots. John Legend and especially Anthony Hamilton at least hold their own but Corinne Bailey Rae (who?) is totally outclassed. An interview with ?uestlove in Wax Poetics implies the record company would have like more guests and he talked them down to three. I feel it was three too many. Granted, I'm not a big fan of these appearances anyway as they always feel shoehorned in, no exception here. But I really think on an Al Green record, when the man is still in fine form, why do I want to hear someone else?

And that is the bottom line. Green still has it. I think his voice has a little more "air" on top than it did on "Everything's OK" but he's still got the fire and is still pretty much nailing it. The problem is, despite Green and all the talent surrounding him on "Lay It Down," the lack of any memorable songs makes this one a pretty big disappointment.

To be fair, I'm judging a leaked copy I picked up about a month ago. As far as I know, the album drops next week, so I don't know how much different the release will be from the advance. Maybe they have a tune or two that they held back. Somehow I kinda doubt it.

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