Back locally for the first time since ACL Fest 2003, Al Green, 73, begins his first tour in six years – an eight-city jaunt – at Bass Concert Hall. Last Saturday on Record Store Day, Possum Records released The Hi Records Singles Collection, which contains all 26 vinyl singles by the Grammy-winning Kennedy Center Honors recipient.
Once the Arkansas native found his voice with the help of producer Willie Mitchell (1928-2010), he broke through with Al Green Gets Next to You in 1971, featuring a bluesy cover of the Temptations’ “I Can’t Get Next to You.” The LP also contained million-seller “Tired of Being Alone.” The esteemed Let’s Stay Together (1972) followed, Green’s smooth falsetto ascending the soul pantheon with its honeyed, Billboard-topping title track.
Aside from Marvin Gaye, and perhaps the Isley Brothers, the son of a sharecropper defined Seventies R&B. None of it would’ve been possible without Mitchell’s tutelage, a yearlong process beginning with Green approaching the producer “to find out who Al was.” At some point, Mitchell angered him and Green stormed out of a studio.
“I left, squealing my tires out of the parking lot, and went home,” chuckles Green. “I thought about it, and called him back. I was a lot clearer later that night, I said, ‘Hey man! Are you ready?’ He started laughing. He said, ‘Yeah, I’m ready.’
“I was gonna sing like Pickett, or James Brown,” continues Green. “He said, ‘No, no, no. That’s not it.’ Then I said, ‘Okay, I’m gonna just sing it without putting anything extra into it.’ And I went, [singing], ‘I’m so in love with you.’
“He said, ‘That’s it – that’s Al!’ I said, ‘Oh, okay. Now I know who Al is.’”– Kahron Spearman