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Al Green Hits Peak on “I’m Still In Love With You”

The slow build-up of Al Green’s career since the mid-’60s finally seemed to have peaked let’s stay together. Now in its fifth year of recording, the January 1972 LP spawned a #1 pop and R&B single with the title track and a #1 album on the R&B charts.

Green and Willie Mitchell, the producer who helped shape the classic sound Green would soon be known for, wasted little time sitting on their newfound creative energy.

Less than nine months later let’s stay together gave Green a new boost of confidence, he published a follow-up, I still love youand soon repeated most of its predecessor’s charting successes: a No. 1 R&B album and single, and a best-ever placement on the pop LP charts.

And in many ways the record, released in late September 1972, remains Green’s most accomplished work, a mix of originals and covers punctuated by Mitchell’s understated but precise production and the expert playing of a group of professionals at Memphis’ Royal Recording Studios will include guitarist Teenie Hodges and Stax veterans Al Jackson Jr. on drums and trumpeter Wayne Jackson.

Listen to Al Green’s “I’m Still in Love With You.”

Green’s first three albums – backup train, Green is blue and Al Green will be next to you – worked their way steadily towards the gold record, with a mix of covers and originals. These covers (first by the Beatles, Gershwin and the Temptations) got bolder and bolder over time: let’s stay together featured an insightful six-and-a-half-minute version of the Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.”

On I still love you He added some country in the form of Kris Kristofferson’s “For the Good Times,” a No. 1 country and Top 15 pop hit for Ray Price in 1970. But more importantly, he added another to his musical stew element added: a career and a lifelong struggle between the spiritual and the secular. The more famous Green became, the greater this inner struggle became. (A friend threw boiling groats at the singer in 1974, then killed herself; he quit making popular music five years later to focus on gospel instead.)

There are signs I still love you – from the song choices, to Green’s delivery, to Mitchell’s thoughtful, often tired-sounding production and arrangements. The fame and trappings caught up with Green, who nonetheless delivered some of his best performances on the album. Following call mereleased in April 1973 and capping a prolific 15-month series with another classic, Green’s music became less and less exciting and more predictable. I still love you is at the heart of his awesome ’70s run.

Listen to Al Green’s Love and Happiness

The album’s first two singles, “Look What You Done for Me” and the title track, were written by Green, Mitchell and Al Jackson Jr., and both went Top 5 in pop and R&B. (“I’m Still in Love With You” earned Green the second of his seven No. 1 hits on the R&B chart.) Green’s solo contributions to the album also grew. He wrote four of the nine songs himself and assisted on three others.

I still love youGreen’s two cover songs reflect Green’s earlier recording habits: Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” is a ’60s carry-over reworked for the bedroom, but “For the Good Times” takes cues from Green’s Bee Gees remake from the previous year . Kristofferson’s meditation on lost love runs (again) for six and a half sultry minutes, culminating in Green’s heartbreaking, compassionate read.

It’s a reversal of the album’s best song, the Green and Hodges-written “Love and Happiness,” a celebration of a relationship that’s still thriving and rooted in Green’s gospel background and future. It has since become one of Green’s most popular songs, but Hi Records chose not to release it as a single in Green’s home country at the time. (“Love and Happiness” was released overseas in 1973 and eventually made it to a US single in 1977, two years after Green’s last Top 30 hit and R&B No. 1. It failed to chart the Hot 100.)

I still love youGreen’s fifth album, became his highest-charting record on the Billboard 200, peaking at No. 4. It was also his second of six consecutive No. 1’s on the R&B chart and remains his only platinum-selling LP alongside 1975 Greatest Hits. The album established Green and Mitchell – and the backing group they assembled – as one of the greatest record teams of the era, guided by an instantly identifiable style that combined simmering restraint, bubbly sensuality and highly anticipated release. It’s quietly funky without forcing the issue, and it’s never been topped – by Green or anyone else.

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