The Immortal Soul of Al Green

by: Al Green

Al Green fans will be aware that The Immortal Soul of Al Green actually marks the second time that a four-CD box set of Green's recordings has been assembled, following by seven years its predecessor, Anthology. That being the case, the obvious question is, why do listeners need another Al Green box set? The answer lies in the two conflicting approaches most often employed in box sets. Basically, two different audiences buy box sets: first, those who are looking for a single, omnibus collection of an artist's recordings that is more comprehensive that a "greatest-hits" album; and second, collectors who already have all the hits and are looking for rarities and unreleased material. Many box sets are designed as compromises that split the difference to attract both audiences. Anthology leaned more toward collectors. It featured a mixture of original hit studio recordings and a heavy complement of live recordings, unreleased material, rarities, and interviews. Of the 28 Al Green tracks featured on singles for the Hot Line, Hi, and Bell labels that reached the Billboard R&B charts between 1967 and 1979, only 12 were included on Anthology. As a result, the album is referred to in its All Music Guide review as "a botched job" whose "appeal is solely for collectors." The Immortal Soul of Al Green goes to the other extreme. With the exception of a few tracks drawn from British rarities albums, such as the 15-minute edit of "Beware," a track from Green's Livin' for You LP, this box set consists of familiar studio recordings, sequenced almost chronologically, and relying on the hits. Of those same 28 R&B chart entries, 27 are included this time, the only exception being "I Feel Good" (number 36). The result tells the story of Al Green's hitmaking years, from his early work in the '60s to his move toward gospel at the end of the '70s, more clearly than did Anthology. And for those who would like the story written down, Colin Escott's liner notes do that job well, too. ~ William Ruhlmann

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