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The Reverend AL GREEN is known the world over for his extraordinary voice, his unmistakable sound, and his legendary hits. With Everything's OK, his latest release for Blue Note Records, Al Green came to an exciting new chapter in his artistry. Strong in voice and in spirit, the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer sang a dozen songs that reveal his renewed passion for the kind of music that made him a household name some 30 years ago.
It was in the early 1970s that Green carved his place in music history with a run of celebrated hits that made him not just an R&B star but a pop icon. Since 1976, however, Green has concentrated on gospel music (recording numerous albums, but only two pop offerings), and since 1979 has led his Baptist congregation, the Full Gospel Tabernacle, in Memphis, Tenn. For Everything's OK, Green embraced both worlds by releasing a "secular" album under the name the Reverend Al Green - a symbolic gesture, perhaps, but a significant one nonetheless.
"I wanted to put on this album who I am - to 'fess up to it,'" Green says, laughing. "I'm the Reverend Al Green, and everybody calls me that, from Argentina all the way to the Catskills. So that's who I am." Musically, Everthing's OK draws on classic R&B and pop, and the lyrics speak of love relationships and life lessons. For this album, Green once again teamed up with producer and arranger Willie Mitchell at Mitchell's Royal Recording Studios, the same studio where the two recorded those early hits - classics including "Tired of Being Alone," "Let's Stay Together," "I Can't Get Next to You," "I'm Still in Love With You," "Call Me," "Here I Am," "Let's Get Married," and "Love and Happiness."
Green started singing professionally at age 9, when he and his brothers formed a gospel quartet, the Greene Brothers, in their hometown of Forest City, Arkansas. (Green dropped the final 'e' from his surname when he went solo.) They toured the gospel circuits in the South, and then began performing around Michigan when the family relocated to Grand Rapids. At 16, Green formed a pop group, Al Greene and the Creations, with high school friends, and they released a single, "Back Up Train," in 1967 (under the new name Al Greene and the Soul Mates) that went to No. 5 on the national R&B chart.
Green and Mitchell's historic meeting took place in 1969, soon after Green decided to go solo. Mitchell - by then a renowned bandleader, arranger, and trumpeter - hired the young singer to front his band for a gig in Midland, Texas, and hearing something special, approached Green after the show. "I told him, 'You come to Memphis and you can be a star.'"
Green signed to Mitchell's Hi Records label and began recording at Royal, with Mitchell arranging, producing, and engineering the sessions himself. Mitchell also coached Green, pushing him to find his own, unique voice. "I was trying to sing like Jackie Wilson and Wilson Pickett and James Brown and Sam Cooke," Green says of those early days. "And Willie said, 'Just sing like you.' I didn't know what that was, and so we just had to find that balance." "It took a long time to find it," Mitchell adds, "but we did it by working from 11am 'til two in the morning, every day. 'I Can't Get Next to You' was close, but 'Tired of Being Alone' was it."
Nearly 30 years later, Everything's OK returns to and updates the signature sound that Green and Mitchell pioneered, a sensuous groove layered with strings and horns that showcased Green's remarkable voice. With this album, Green is coming full circle, embracing his world inside and outside the church.