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Al Green 

Everything's OK (Blue Note)

Al Green cleared his throat with I Can't Stop, his smooth, formulaic return to secular form in 2003. With Everything's OK, the Memphis minister is in full voice: His second disc with longtime producer Willie Mitchell finds the two at the top of their game.

Largely written by Green, Everything's OK is a full-bodied, swank soul album replete with strings, the Royal Horns, unusually daring arrangements, and, when the song calls for it, a solo -- Bobby Rush's harmonica on Green's "I Can Make Music" is sharp, and Lannie McMillan's David Sanborn-styled sax makes "Be My Baby" even more persuasive.

The songs move, sparked by Mitchell's meticulous, transparent settings. Most are midtempo, Green's most comfortable groove. Aspiration and affection fuel the album, an affirmation of the Green-Mitchell partnership that made Green one of the premier soul singers of the '70s. As passionate as his earlier work, it showcases a newly comfortable Green, eager to sing sweet and raw with equal authority. Even the single cover, "You Are So Beautiful," a hit for the more mannered singer Joe Cocker, rings with credibility and imagination.

More by Carlo Wolff

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