Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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AL GREEN
The Absolute Best
The Right Stuff/Hi

Two well-chosen discs of Al Green classics--though you could just buy his regular albums

Less schlock-prone than any other great twentieth-century singer except Billie Holiday, Al Green has never put his name on a bad album. This two-disc exploitation (with a second four-disc box due later in 2004) is superb throughout--and that includes the two previously unreleased tracks. It would be a spendthrift purchase for any owner of Al Green's Greatest Hits, all 15 of whose selections it duplicates (two in alternate versions), or the 1997 box set Anthology. But the 19 non-Greatest Hits tracks--all of classic '70s vintage, topped by "Simply Beautiful," "Love Ritual," "Rhymes" and "Strong as Death, Sweet as Love"--are markedly sweeter and sharper than those that fill the remarkably schlocky More Greatest Hits collection. Caveat emptor--or dig it, as the case may be.

Blender, Mar. 2004