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Our critics' picks in new releases



On some levels, I Can't Stop is as much an event as it is an album: Al Green's first secular soul/R&B record in almost 10 years and a reunion with producer/arranger Willie Mitchell, with whom Green hadn't worked in more than a decade. Completing the Hi Records-redux vibe are Teenie Hodges on guitar and Leroy Hodges on bass, and the trio of Donna Rhodes, Sandra Rhodes and Charlie Chalmers on background vocals. But that said, I Can't Stop is, without a doubt, an event that you can dance to, be it slow or fast. For the former, there's the lovely ballad "Rainin' in My Heart," a worthy addition to the precipitation canon alongside Ann Peebles' "I Can't Stand the Rain," Tony Joe White/Brook Benton's "Rainy Night in Georgia," and James Carr's "These Ain't Raindrops." And if you're looking to slide the coffee table out of the way and move, there's the lively "You." I'd bet this is what horn sections sound like in heaven, or at least they did in its earthbound equivalent, Memphis in 1973.

All 12 songs on I Can't Stop were written by Green and Mitchell or just Green, and the words aren't out to shatter the earth. The subject is always romance, specifically its various phases, with emphasis on the "Is it over?" stage and its sad, frequent companion, the "Yes, it's over" stage. But no one gravitates toward Al Green for the lyrics; you come for the emotion and, oh yeah, the voice. He could sing a dishwasher owner's manual and turn it into an epic of yearning. And therein lies the one beef with the album: At times, Green's passion-coated vocals aren't front-and-center enough in the mix. This is a voice that's in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and probably should be in the Smithsonian, if not in one of those culture-defining containers that we launch into space.

Yeah, like I need to be telling Willie Mitchell what to do.

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