Title: Back Up Train
Artist: Al Green
Year: 2005, 1972
Al Green is recognized around the world as one of the premier soul singers. With his distinctive, unmistakable and extraordinary voice, he forged a distinctive style of song interpretation in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Back Up Train reflects the youthful soul style and voice of a 21-year-old Al Green. Though released in 1972, the songs were actually recorded in 1967 in New York by Green with a group called the Soul Mates. When “Tired of Being Alone” hit #1 on the R&B charts in 1970, these tracks were finally dug out of the vaults and issued by Arista.
The album is a collection of songs deeply rooted in the relationships between and a man and a woman—quoting the liner notes, “the message is love.” Green is a somewhat “raw” singer here, but his voice clearly shows the strength and versatility that would soon develop into his recognizable and world famous falsetto. The album produced one chart hit, the title song “Back Up Train,” which is a soulful ballad about a man who left his woman and wants the train to take him back home to his baby. In this song, full of emotional pain, Green sings straight tenor–there is no use of his trademark falsetto. Another track, “Hot Wire,” has a very “James Brown” type of sound. That is to say, the use of a polyrhythm structure along with percussive horns and an up-tempo beat creates a very “danceable” track.
At the time of this recording, Green had not yet forged his relationship with producer Willie Mitchell and the Hi Record Company where he had great success with albums like I’m Still in Love with You” (1972), Let’s Stay Together (1972/1973), Call Me (1972/1973), and Livin’ For You (1973). Still, if you’re a fan of the man and his music, Back Up Train is one to add to your collection—it is the roots to the soul of the man and his sound.
Posted by Clark D. Whitlow