Al Green’s album Let’s Stay Together is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, and we’re taking a look into the songs that shot him to fame and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The smooth toned soul singer became popular in the early 1970’s, but achieved only moderate success with his earlier album Al Green Gets Next to You. From the ‘70s onward, he continued to produce music that lived up to Let’s Stay Together, and soon became deeper invested in his faith and turned to gospel. Throughout his career, he carried on the legacy created by Let’s Stay Together.
Green penned almost every single song on to the album, with the exception of a couple collaborations. A recurring theme is love, and there isn’t one instance where he sings about something other than his feelings for a girl. Many may think “Let’s Stay Together” shouldn’t be representative of Green’s entire career; it was a pop influenced song, where he is heavily a soul artist and should not be discredited otherwise. However, the genius of this song should not be missed out on. The lyrics of the song are recognizable anywhere, with “Lovin’ you whether, whether/Times are good or bad, happy or sad”. Though simple words, their meaning is uncomplicated just as he presents love as uncomplicated. He tends to be very black or white and blunt with his wording, making up for any intricacy in vocals or instrumentals.
“La La For You” is another song worth mentioning from the album. Horns are an especially important contribution to this song specifically, contributing to the intro and recognizable theme. It’s reminiscent of soul from the 1970’s and you can almost imagine it being performed on Soul Train. Continually upbeat throughout, it is a rarity as many of the songs tend to go at a slower pace. It attempts to get the album up and running, but luckily it does not have to be in there to give diversity; every track has a different tune, unlike many artists whose songs can sound like one sound over and over again. You won’t be asking if it had changed to a new song when taking a listen.
One surprising twist as you continue to listen on further is a cover of the Bee Gee’s song “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.” If you’re familiar with the original, it is significantly different in certain aspects. Guitar is still used, but in a different sense. Orchestral portions are brought out and the tempo is slowed, to give it a sultry and soft sense. Green’s vocals push it over the top, to a place I didn’t think it could be taken, where the cover can be better than the original. He puts you in the story, as if you were the one in the relationship with “I can still feel the breeze that rustles through the trees/And misty memories of days gone by.” It makes you yearn and want to comfort Green as he croons. By taking an original song and adding his own voice, not only does he add significance to the original, but shows his skills at finding his own voice and pinpointing his style.
If you only were able to listen to one album of Al Green’s, this would be the one to do so. There is a taste of pop in “Let’s Stay Together” and classic R&B in the rest of the songs on the album. It’s worth venturing a listen to and getting out of your comfort zone in your music taste.