Best of the Bedroom

In honor of Al Green, here are 10 of the most potent slow jams.

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Al Green House of Blues, 308 Euclid Avenue 8 p.m. Friday, December 3, and Saturday, December 4, $65/$75, 216-241-5555
Al Green may have provided the background music for - the most important moment of your life.
Al Green may have provided the background music for the most important moment of your life.
Soul legend Al Green may be a minister, with his own Memphis church. He may have struggled for years, as so many R&B stars have, over the balance between the sacred and the secular, taking a long powder from popular music during the '80s and '90s in the process.

But if you figure he's going to apologize for creating the bedroom soundtrack that helped spawn thousands of babies, think again.

"I've been hearin' a lot about that these days. I heard it just a minute ago at Walgreen's," says Green with a chuckle. "Some guy said to me, 'Hey man, all my babies was conceived to your music.' And I'm goin' like, 'God, man, you ain't usin' it for that, are you?' And he said, 'Well, ya know, Reverend, the music kinda gets you in the groove.'

"I hear that. I don't have to reconcile it with my spiritual beliefs," continues Green, his drawl rising as the preacher in him heads for the punch line. "These are natural songs, about natural people, husband and wife. I don't have to reconcile that with anything. It's about life, that's what it is!"

So during Green's upcoming two-night stand at the House of Blues, fans can expect to hear not only material from I Can't Stop, Green's acclaimed 2003 southern-soul reunion with longtime producer Willie Mitchell, but a generous selection of classic baby-makers from the duo's '70s heyday as well.

Pondering Rev. Al's classics got us thinking about one of the all-time great musical debates: What's the ultimate bedroom soundtrack? For the purposes of the following list, we'll ignore esoterica and concentrate on meat-and-potatoes get-busy music -- the male-dominated R&B of the last four decades. Even if you disagree with every single track and assemble your own compilation to prove what sexually stunted dumbasses we are, it'll still be cheaper than Viagra.

1. Al Green, "Still in Love With You" (1972): Let's start with the Rev., whose finest moment sums up every love that just won't die, in three minutes and 15 seconds of exquisite slow burn. When aching falsetto and horn thrusts finally end the extended foreplay, only a eunuch could resist.

2. Marvin Gaye, "Let's Get It On" (1973): No explanation required, right? Well, maybe. The pinnacle of Marvin Gaye's musical lust for life was very nearly a political statement, before wiser (or merely hornier) heads prevailed at Motown. You might owe your existence to that decision.

3. Barry White, "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little Bit More, Baby" (1973): White was such an underrated producer and arranger that the pelvic throb of this debut single, which set the template for many deep-voiced hits to follow, could have lathered you up even without his basso profundities on top.

4. LaBelle, "You Turn Me On" (1974): The most sexually liberated member of a very liberated female threesome, Nona Hendryx composed this erotic ballad for the album that housed "Lady Marmalade." Patti still performs it today, but this is the knee-weakening version you want.

5. Teddy Pendergrass, "Turn Off the Lights" (1979): The randiest piece of Philly soul ever set to wax. If Pendergrass wasn't the first to request in song a rubdown with hot oils, he's certainly the best-remembered.

6. Prince, "International Lover" (1982): If you're brave or stuck in a bizarre love triangle, you could go for "The Beautiful Ones" -- the haunting, haunted Purple Rain ballad that remains the most unearthly thing His Royal Badness ever recorded. Assuming you simply want to score, the classic bump 'n' grind of this 1999-era favorite will do the trick.

7. Keith Sweat, "Make It Last Forever" (1988): With apologies to Guy's "Piece of My Love," Al B. Sure's "Ooh This Love Is So," or even New Edition's "Can You Stand the Rain," this is the definitive new jack swing ballad (too many guys singing at once in your bedroom sounds more like an orgy than romance). No singer ever did more with less than Sweat, the king of the one-note booty-beggars.

8. R. Kelly, "Your Body's Callin'" (1993): It would be easier to leave R. off this list, as we now have a pretty good idea of how old that body callin' him was (and what happened when he answered). But this gently erotic come-on is still a good reminder of Kelly's pre-porn-tape brilliance.

9. Missy Elliott, "Friendly Skies" (1997): The club cuts she and Timbaland create are so cutting-edge, people forget just how many great ballads Miss E has in her little black book. This gauzy slice of meteorological advice from her debut warns that "the weatherman says/It's gonna be cold tonight." This one will undoubtedly warm you up, though.

10. Maxwell, "This Woman's Work" (2001): The pallid, Diet Coke imitations of neo-soul are exposed most thoroughly when you start talking about slow jams. Yet Maxwell's cover of Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" amazingly transcends its genre and the original tune, turning a mother's lament at childbirth into a father's declaration of us-against-the-world solidarity. For thinking about the baby you just made.

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