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Al Green

'Stop' Calling Me Shirley

AlIt may have taken 27 years for Al Green and mentor/producer Willie Mitchell to reunite for a bold new secular album, but now that they're in the groove, it seems there's no stopping a good thing. Of the new "I Can't Stop," released this week by Blue Note, Green says, "This brought back warm feelings for the good times." He adds, "We're already in the middle of writing a fourth song" for another album.

Not only did the legendary team work out of Mitchell's Memphis-based Royal Studios, the birthplace of such soul classics as "Let's Stay Together" and "Love and Happiness," but it went a step further and recruited some of the same musicians (guitarist Mabon "Teenie" Hodges, bassist Leroy Hodges, the Royal Horns) and backup vocalists (Donna Rhodes, Charlie Chalmers, Sandra Rhodes) from Green and Mitchell's 1970s heyday.

For the new set, the only rule that Mitchell stipulated was that this should not be a gospel album. "I had some things in my head and he had things in his head," recalls Mitchell, who had been in the hospital fighting diabetes. "We didn't have a label at the time. My idea was just to cut some good songs and make him sing well. And it came out exactly the way I planned it. There was no doubt that we'd get a label."

The pair co-wrote eight of the album's 12 songs, with Green penning four on his own. "We tried to redo a bunch of old songs," Green says. "Then Willie said, 'It can't be some songs that someone has sung 2,000 times. It's gotta come from the inside of you.' So we sat down at the piano like we did in the 'Tired of Being Alone' days.