Picks and Pans Review: He Is the Light

updated 02/17/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/17/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

Al Green

It's a testament to Green's talent and popularity that he didn't sink from view when he devoted his life to God's work in 1979. Since then, Green has appeared on Broadway with Patti LaBelle in a revival of Your Arms Too Short To Box With God and recorded some excellent gospel albums, like Higher Plane. His gift for gospel is not surprising since Green, like Sam Cooke, Clyde McPhatter and so many other great soul singers, developed his style in church. But He Is the Light has a few songs more pop-oriented than any record since Green's ordination as a pastor. Maybe the success of Steve Arrington showed him that music can be both spiritual and scintillating. More likely, He Is the Light soars because it reunites Green with Willie Mitchell, the producer responsible for Green's passel of pop hits—Let's Stay Together, Call Me (Come Back Home), I'm Still in Love With You—in the 1970s. Mitchell's sound is immediately apparent: exclamatory horn charts, electric piano and tightly twined bass and guitar lines. Green's voice, with its sweet shifts into falsetto, is a toy cannon that doesn't have to scream to get noticed. It makes you feel a little guilty to root for the devil to flick his tail in Green's music, sure, but it's even better to hear him singing than testifying. And it can't really be a sin to prefer the more profane Going Away or True Love to the sacred title track. (A&M)

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