hide captionWith his latest record, Al Green returns to his classic sound.
Philippe Merle/AFP/Getty Images
Blender magazine's Lizzy Goodman discusses the week's new album releases, including music from Usher, Spiritualized, and Cyndi Lauper, as well as a spectacular soul record from Al Green.
Legends in music don't come much bigger than Green. The soulful singer's string of hits dates back several decades. Most recently, Green has worked as a Christian preacher.
But with his new album, Lay It Down, Green returns to his most soulful form. "He's Al Green, so he basically gets to do what he wants," Goodman says. "The sort of great, classic-era '70 Al Green, we haven't seen all that much of that sound coming out of him recently."
In returning to his tried-and-true sound, Green turned to some of the hottest names in contemporary music. Lay It Down was produced by ?uestlove of The Roots, and features performances by new singers such as John Legend.
"It's sort of this interesting prism," Goodman says, "in that the people on whose career he was such an influence are now reinterpreting him for him."
Usher also returns with Here I Stand, his follow-up to 2004's hugely successful Confessions. Goodman says that Usher's "smooth player lifestyle" is no longer the focus, now that the singer is married and has become a father. "The kind of rhythm and the sound of the music has not changed that much," she says. "It's the theme that's changed."
With Songs in A&E, Spiritualized founder Jason Pierce collects a series of songs that he wrote before and during a long period of hospitalization, when he was facing a serious infection. The singer has said that his near-death experience helped him decide to finally finish and release the record.
Finally, Cyndi Lauper makes another comeback with Bring You to the Brink. "There are songs on this album that are really great dance songs," Goodman says. "But consistency isn't the strength of this record — it's kind of a singles record."