Gospel According to Al Green

Al Green’s angelically seductive voice is unequaled in R&B, and perhaps all of popular music, and the hits he made with legendary producer Willie Mitchell include some of the most evocative songwriting of the early seventies. He might have reached the same heights of mass acclaim as such R&B contemporaries as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Smokey Robinson were it not for a disturbing incident in which an obsessed girlfriend badly scalded him with boiling grits and then committed suicide. Within a few years, the singer became the Reverend Al Green, bought his own church, and for a time abandoned secular pop music entirely.

This fascinating 1984 documentary details the period in which Green became a deliberately obscure figure, allowing the singer to tell his own story in addition to performing some astonishingly good gospel and also preaching at his Memphis Full Gospel Tabernacle. He even deigns to break his own no-secular-music rule and performs a transcendent version of his love song supreme, “Let’s Stay Together” – a performance strong enough to almost make us forget “Pulp Fiction” and that bandage on the back of Ving Rhames neck. Director Robert Mugge’s film captures Green at his musical best – still only in his late thirties and absolutely at the top of his game. A must for fans of both classic soul and gospel music, “Gospel According to Al Green” reveals a conflicted, slightly eccentric, but always utterly sincere performer, while presenting an awe-inspiring reminder of the musical and emotional power of the African-American church.

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