AL GREEN: FULL OF FIRE (1976)
1) Glory, Glory; 2) That's The Way It Is; 3) Always; 4) There's No Way; 5) I'd Fly Away; 6) Full Of Fire; 7) Together Again; 8) Soon As I Get Home; 9) Let It Shine.
Al made a whoppin' two albums in 1976 — both of them easy-going and eminently listenable, but completely surprise-less. Full Of Fire may be a bit more consistent than Have A Good Time, or it may be vice versa, however, that is not saying much.
Do not get me wrong, though: Al's last really big artistic transformation happened four years before, and since then his main emphasis had steadily focused on creating new melodies rather than new ways of expression. Full Of Fire is more or less evenly divided between proto-disco dance numbers and slow ballads, and the dance numbers in particular never disappoint — regardless of whether they celebrate the celestial ('Glory Glory') or the carnal (title track), they're the usual mix of catchiness, fun, and tasteful arrangements.
The ballads are slightly weaker this time around, though, especially 'Together Again', which creeps along at a dehydrated snail's pace and is weirdly lazy even in the vocal department; maybe somebody loves the idea of stretching vocals, strings and saxes to the point of thinning out to a microscopic level, finding it mesmerizing, but if formerly the idea of an Al Green ballad was to assist your sleeping with a lovely lady, the idea of 'Together Again' just seems to be in assisting you to sleep — period. Arguably hooking people on ballads is a more subtle matter than hooking them on rockers, since Al is clearly losing the balance here on these two fronts.
Nevertheless, when the ballads run at a slightly more upbeat tempo, the results are more optimistic. In particular, 'Soon As I Get Home' is one of Al's simplest, but also tenderest and warmest creations — there's nothing here emotionally but a starry-eyed wish to be reunited with one's beloved, of course, but as long as it's expressed with so much passion, and as long as the strings continue to play the part of the beloved to Al's part of the lover, who would want Al Green to drop this simple approach in favour of a more complicated "existentialist" one?
All in all, once we get around to the bragging title track, I'm all but ready to believe that, no matter how many times he's going to do this all over again, he's still "full of fire", and will remain that way until the end of time. Therefore, here's another highly recommended Al Green album; thumbs up from the heart, which is still in love with the man, and from the brain, which is trying to calculate the exact number that it is possible to come up with a winner using the same formula — using the Al Green catalog as essential empiric data.