Tuesday, April 13, 2010

April 13: Al Green, "Tired Of Being Alone"

Artist: Al Green
Song: "Tired Of Being Alone"
Album: Gets Next To You
Year: 1971

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Perhaps the most difficult task in all of music is for an artist to create a song that, regardless of the era in which it is being played, does not sound dated.  While in the early years of recorded music, this was largely unavoidable due to the realities in recording technology, one can find examples of this unique talent as far back as the1950's.  These almost magical songs, that carry with them such amazing mood and tone that they resonate just as strong with each generation stand as the high water mark in terms of both recording as well as true musical talent, as the artists who recorded these classics remain the most highly respected in music history.  Standing today as one of the finest and most influential soul singers in history, there are few artists who were able to consistently find this timeless sound than the one and only Al Green.  From his moving gospel numbers to his unforgettable soul and R&B classics, one cannot mistake the voice or amazing musical arrangements of Al Green, and one would be hard pressed to find a more straightforward and unguarded singer anywhere in music history.  As the man who is largely responsible for "bridging the gap" between the Southern soul sound and the "Philadelphia soul" sound, few musicians can compare to the voice and impact of Al Green.  While he achieved his musical highpoint with Let's Stay Together, Al Green truly revolutionized the world of music with his 1971 classic, "Tired Of Being Alone."

While there is no question that on any song he sings, Al Green's amazing voice becomes the focus, one cannot overlook the superb music over which he sings, and on "Tired Of Being Alone," the music plays an even larger role.  Truth be told, Gets Next To You was the first collaboration between Green and producer/arranger Willie Mitchell, and it is on this album that the duo found the sound that would make them both famous.  On this album, Green seems to leave behind the gritter Southern sound, and thanks to the Hi Rhythm Section, "Tired Of Being Alone" truly sounds like nothing else that had been previously recorded.  Bringing a smoother, more sensual sound, the song sets a deep, soulful groove from the onset, and the punctuation from the horns plays a sensational contrast.  The Hi Rhythm Section, which were in essence the house band for Hi Records, was anchored by the Hodges brothers, and the bass of Leroy Hodges on "Tired Of Being Alone" is simply too good to go unnoted.  Though it may seem "standard" in modern times, the fact is, before this recording, such a "fat" bass sound had never really been recorded, and it is his sound that gives the song such a warm tone.  Similarly, the guitar from Mabon "Teenie" Hodges is also unlike anything else previously recorded, as the tone is so perfectly clean that it brings to mind the early work of Ike Turner.  Rounded out by legendary drummer Al Jackson Jr. and The Memphis Horns, if one is able to get past Green's extraordinary voice for a moment, one can clearly hear just how musically significant a song there is within "Tired Of Being Alone."

However, "getting past" Al Green's voice is far easier said than done, as he has without question one of the most truly beautiful voices in music history.  Amazingly unique, there is no other singer that sounds similar, and on nearly every song, he proves that every point on the vocal spectrum is well within his ability.  The fact that Al Green rarely sounds as if he is "pushing" to hit a note not only serves as a testament to his great ability, but it also gives his recordings a wonderfully honest and organic feel.  This tone is furthered by the fact that each of his songs is delivered with a frank, unguarded style that sets him far above his peers.  Truth be told, on many recordings, "Tired Of Being Alone" included, one is left to wonder just how much these lyrics hit home with Green, as the words are clearly coming from the heart, and he makes each work completely relatable by any listener.  The song is a plea for the woman he loves to return that love, but as one listens, it raises the question of whether or not Green "ran off" that love in the first place.  Perfectly capturing the emotion of the thoughts that run though a lonely mind late at night, "Tired Of Being Alone" is a lament like no other ever recorded.  Though it may seem like a simple sentiment, Green proves just how brilliant a performer he is, as he grabs the listeners heart with lines like, "...I'm cryin' tears, all through the years, I tell you like it is, honey, love me if you can..."  Each word and phrase is more heartbreaking than the one before, and Al Green conveys everything from regret to hope to the most pure and true love throughout the stunning vocals on "Tired Of Being Alone."

One can easily make the case that there are certain songs in history that are so timeless, so beyond description, that they will "never die" as the generations pass.  Sometimes due to a unique musical arrangement, sometimes due to a vocal that is truly "classic," these songs remain the greatest in history, and yet because there are so few, it is clear that making a song of this caliber is perhaps the hardest thing one can do in music.  Though he had already gained a bit of notoriety with a handful of singles, it was Al Green's 1971 classic, "Tired Of Being Alone" that truly catapulted him into the spotlight and almost instantly cemented his name as one of the greatest soul singers in history.  Bringing a more relaxed, smoother sound than any of his peers, Green largely "rewrote the books" on how soul music could sound, and his singing paved the way for countless artists that followed his formula.  Yet even though many tried, none could ever replicate Green's sound, and this is largely due to the fact that none of them had the luxury of the sensational musicians playing behind Green on songs like "Tired Of Being Alone."  Perhaps only rivaled by the legendary Funk Brothers, The Hi Rhythm Section are without question one of the greatest bands in history, and the distinctive musical approach and tone which is displayed on "Tired Of Being Alone" truly revolutionized music, though their contribution is often lost being the mesmerizing vocals of Al Green.  In short, the fact that it is still as relevant and "fresh" today as it was nearly forty years ago proves the true power and musical mastery that is contained within Al Green's legendary 1971 classic, "Tired Of Being Alone."

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