The friendly collision of new and old sensibilities on “Lay It Down” (Blue Note) is as vintage-sounding as anything Al Green released during his Hi Records heyday of the ’70s, but also finds him dueting with John Legend (“Stay With Me [By the Sea]”), Corinne Bailey Rae (“Take Your Time”) and Anthony Hamilton, with the Dap-Kings horn section playing behind them.
The Roots’ Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson produced in tandem with keyboardist James Poyser. “I’ve never heard anything quite like it, because I’ve never had anybody produce me other than Willie Mitchell,” Green says. “And when you give these young kids a shot at it, it’s interesting to see the art they make. It’s beautiful.”
Thompson says he and Poyser definitely had vintage Green in mind when they began working on “Lay It Down” in 2005 at Electric Lady studios in New York. “I told Blue Note that if they truly want a follow-up to ‘The Belle Album'” — Green’s 1977 “farewell” to secular music — “come and see me,” Thompson recalls. “I just said that, ‘I’m going to create a record that will absolutely be the 30-year follow-up to ‘The Belle Album.’
“That’s not to negate the last 30 years of his work, but there is a very specific reason why most people consider ‘The Belle Album’ to be the official last Al Green record, and I really wanted to recapture that sound,” he continues.