On his latest release, the legendary Al Green is appealing to a younger audience with a little help from some contemporary heavyweights.
Celebrated Roots drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson and keyboardist James Poyser co-produced the R&B pioneer's new studio album, Lay It Down, creating an updated vibe for the veteran soul/gospel crooner.
"They didn't want to get too far from the foundation that Willie Mitchell [original producer for Hi Records] and I built [with] Call Me, I'm Still In Love With You [and] Let's Stay Together," Al Green told AllHipHop.com in a statement. We want to keep all of the aura, but we would like to have freedom enough to spread our wings and express ourselves."
Frequent collaborators, ?uestlove and Poyser have played a great role in molding the sound of today's Soul movement, lending their brand of rich, Philly funk to projects by Erykah Badu, Common, Jill Scott, and of course, the legendary Roots crew, to name a few.
The two worked with an all-star team of musicians to modernize Green's sound, including the renowned Dap-King Horns, guitarist Spanky Alford, and bassist Adam Blackstone.
"The reason why we are doing this is because we all idolize Al Green," ?uestlove said. "Even today, nobody has range like him."
Lay It Down, which drops May 27 on Blue Note Records, is the culmination of two and a half years of work.
The project came forth from a series of sessions between Green and ?uest at Electric Lady Studios in New York, the Jimi Hendrix-created facility, where a variety of artists from Curtis Mayfield to Led Zepplin to D'Angelo and Christina Aguilera have created hits.
Out of those sessions were born the "most high spirited, funky and often lushly romantic songs," Green has created in recent years.
The album also features appearances by Anthony Hamilton and The Roots, as well as John Legend and British chanteuse Corrine Bailey Rae, who appear together on the single "Stay With Me (by the sea)."
"Al Green is a magical singer," says Legend. "He has been an important part of black music history, and pop music history for that matter. It's an honor to be able to work with Al Green, who I have always loved and respected."
Al Green has released more than thirty studio albums since his 1967 debut Back Up Train.
Lay It Down marks his third album of all new material in the last five years.
"The Roots, all the guys from Philly who came up to do this stuff with us, they were incredible. I could relax because I knew the people were capable," Green explained.