Al Green: Strong As Death (Sweet As Love)
From 7″ (B-side of “Oh Me Oh My”) (Hi, 1974).
Al Green: Belle
From Belle (Hi, 1977)
Both available on The Immortal Soul of Al Green
Closing out Al Green week, two songs: one an all-time (and rather obscure) favorite; the other a track from one of Green’s most contested albums. The first is “Strong as Death (Sweet as Love)”. I first heard this on the Green anthology from ’89, Love Ritual which was all unreleased or rare (non-LP) songs. Though it was a ’74 song, you’d swear it was recorded a few years earlier: it seems to fit perfectly into the sound and vibe of Green during his best Hi Records work. In fact, I’d put it up there with my top 3 Green songs of all-time; it’s that good, especially the production (sublime). (Word to KGB’s “Bless Ya Life,” by the way).
As for “Belle” – at least four people have asked me in the last week what my opinion of Belle album is. For those who don’t know the backstory: Belle was Green’s first LP on Hi Records after it was sold to Al Bennett (Dot, Liberty) and it’s his first album away from Willie Mitchell (and Al Jackson who had tragically died a few years prior). For that reason, a lot of Green purists are not huge fans of Belle (it also doesn’t help that Green was already on the fast-track away from secular music towards gospel). Personally, I don’t think it’s his best work either, though I can’t say it’s definitively worse than his last few Mitchell-produced albums either. But it’s not a bad album and it’s an important shift in Green’s career, especially since he produced most of the songs and also played acoustic guitar on them, something he didn’t do under Mitchell’s watch. I like the song “Belle” in any case – it’s no “Love and Happiness” but it’s still a solid listen.