Al Green: “Let’s Stay Together”
Original Release Date: 1972 Hi Records
(My Rating: 4 Stars)
Let’s Stay Together
La-La For You
So You’re Leaving
What Is This Feeling
Old Time Lovin
I’ve Never Found A Girl
How Can You Mend A Broken Heart
It Ain’t No Fun To Me
I want to begin by stating an album like, “Let’s Stay Together,” by Al Green is automatically special to me for personal reasons. However, these personal reasons must not be that private because I’m about to share them with the world through this review. Does this album remind me of the desperation I felt when losing a long term love? Nah. Does it make me, “misty,” for the elation that comes with discovering a new relationship? Nope. Does it make me want to change my name to, “Judy?” Well not initially, but after hearing the song so many times one does start to respect that girl. So what is it about Al Green’s album, “Let’s Stay Together,” that does move this rather unromantic listener? The answer may not be found in, “Judy,” but can be summarized by the name, Duffy’s.
When I was in college there was a hole in the wall bar, (and everyone has one), that I hung out at constantly. Duffy’s was that bar. It was at this establishment that me and my fellow art majors would gather to commiserate over classes, binge drink, and most importantly feed the jukebox. Due to our like-mindedness, (aka mob mentality), it was simply understood which songs were acceptable to play in this establishment. Yes, during that time the Duffy’s ambiance was created by songs from The Pixies, Marvin Gaye, Johnny Cash, and yes, Al Green. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before our little hideout was discovered by the, “evil,” Jocks. As a result, splashes of Nickelback and, “gasp, oh the horror,” Dave Matthews Band started seeping into our well-constructed playlists. The situation got so serious us art majors made buttons reading, “DMB sucks!” in order to peacefully protest the hostile takeover of our beloved bar. This being said, it’s impossible for me to hear, “Let’s Stay Together,” and not think of these pretty ridiculous times.
All nostalgia aside, this album has a lot to contribute to a listener. Ballads like, “Judy,” and, “Old Time Lovin,” provide awesome examples of Green’s ability to use his voice to express tenderness. This listener is particularly surprised by her fondness for the song, “Judy,” considering I generally don’t care for songs named after specific women. I find it hard to relate to a piece of music when the lyrics are constantly mentioning another woman’s name. Call me narcissistic, but I want to pretend these sweet songs were written about me! However, by the third listen of, “Judy,” even the most self-centered audience starts to think, “Maybe this Judy lady isn’t so bad.”
Other notable moments can be found in the song, “I’ve Never Found A Girl,” where the, “call and response,” style lyrics between Green and his background vocal team inspire even the most, "square," of listeners to sneak a little snap and sway action. In addition tunes like, “La-La For You,” and, “So You’re Leaving,” span the emotional range between blind love and defiant desperation. Of course, they do this through a soulful swagger that can only be created by a legitimate horn section and organ player. A listener hears these insturments play, “Bwow, Bwow, Bwow, Bwow, Bwow…..” and can’t help but go, “La-La,” for Green.
Lastly, it’s no surprise that my favorite song on, “Let’s Stay Together,” is, “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart.” Is it because my heart is broken from just too much love? Ha, hardly! No, it’s because this song reminds me of that foggy headed college girl sitting drunk at Duffy’s. That girl would have definitely selected this song on the jukebox and sang it proudly off key with blurry eyes and a cigarette in her mouth. What I wouldn’t give to tell her now that one could, “Mend A Broken Heart,” by simply singing it sober.