This is The Memphis Sound at its best — big Hammond organs with whirring Leslie speakers, funky drums, punchy brass blasts, and lovely string arrangements.
Al Green’s singing is superb, of course, but one thing that really stands out after hearing the best Hot Stamper copies is the quality of the musicians’ performances. The rhythm section on this album really drives the music. Just listen to the punchy kick drum and deep, note-like bass on a song like Love and Happiness — the band is rockin’.
The Hodges Brothers — the house band at Hi Records, known for their “telepathic interplay” — deliver rock solid musicianship just brimming with energy and soul. The brass is handled by the truly great Memphis Horns, of Stax Records fame.
Just play the beginning of I’m So Glad You’re Mine to hear what we’re talking about. The drummer opens with a tight, funky beat that gets the song going right out of the gate. The kick drum is as punchy as they come, and just listen to that big room around the rimshots.
When the rest of the band joins in, you’ll be treated to some of the best Hammond organ sound you’ll ever hear. You can really hear the effect of the rotating Leslie speaker. When Al joins in on vocals with a very emotional, expressive performance, you’ll understand just why we’re so crazy about this record — it’s pure soul magic, baby!
Classic Al Green Sound
Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much in the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable AL GREEN singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of older recordings (this one is now 46 years old), I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played can serve as a guide.
Mids, Top End, Etc.
Copies with rich lower mids did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.
Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural ambience and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.
Smear is common to pressings from every era and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.
If you have five or ten copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what’s right and what’s wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the others do not do as well, using a few specific passages of music, it will quickly become obvious how well any given pressing reproduces those passages.
The process is simple enough. First you go deep into the sound. There you find something special, something you can’t find on most copies. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.
I’m Still In Love With You
I’m Glad You’re Mine
Love And Happiness
What A Wonderful Thing Love Is
Oh, Pretty Woman
For The Good Times
Look What You Done For Me
One Of These Good Old Days
I’m Still in Love With You shares many surface similarities with its predecessor, Let’s Stay Together; from Al Green and Willie Mitchell’s distinctive, sexy style to the pacing and song selection. Despite those shared traits, I’m Still in Love With You distinguishes itself with its suave, romantic tone and its subtly ambitious choice of material. Green began exploring country music with this album by performing a startling version of Kris Kristofferson’s “For the Good Times,” as well as a wonderful, slow reinterpretation of Roy Orbison’s “Oh Pretty Woman.” And the soul numbers are more complex than they would appear — listen to how the beat falls together at the beginning of “Love and Happiness,” or the sly melody of the title track. There isn’t a wasted track on I’m Still in Love With You, and in many ways it rivals its follow-up, Call Me, as Green’s masterpiece.