Full of Fire
Released on Hi Records, 1976
This pressing, The Right Stuff, 1996
Recorded at Royal Recording Studios,
1320 South Lauderdale, Memphis, Tennessee 38118.
Mastered at Audiotronics, Memphis, Tennessee.
Recorded, mixed, and produced by Willie Mitchell
Yesterday I took a four-hour bus ride with no headphones and this song (above) ran through my imagination repeatedly to keep my sanity intact. I never ever travel without some music to listen to, but then I had never planned to be leaving a huge music festival a day early and taking a bus home by myself. I am not the praying type, but only about 12 hours before I had muttered an oration to St. George asking for strength, protection, and courage to say some things that don’t come naturally to me. It didn’t work, as now I was feeling more or less like garbage: physically, spiritually, emotionally like garbage, and feeling as naked as the day I was born. But while the saints may have hung me out to dry, Al Green never fails. I let this song play on `repeat` for most of the four hours, as well as I could remember it in details which tend to be fairly accurate.
My musical ruminations were interrupted by long conversations with near strangers. I could say to you simply that “I love meeting new people!” and leave it like that, but the truth is that I love meeting new people because once they get to know me better they usually don’t want anything to do with me. I move from one city to another, wearing out my “welcome mat” at each as I go along. New city, new mat. The result is a life filled with long conversations with near strangers. I am always on the verge of a disappearing act. And I never felt more like disappearing than I did on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Enter, alas, the Church Of Al Green, where you are always truly welcome.
After the bus ride I had lunch with the less than total stranger and then went to get my car. More conversations with closer strangers who almost feel like family to me, although I know too well that this can never be. But where my car was parked, the woman who lives there simply can’t let you pass by her door without inviting you in for coffee and conversation. I accepted because, with closer strangers who feel like they could be family, there is no other choice. And besides, it lifted my spirits for an hour and made it easier to get behind the wheel and actually drive home as opposed to driving off a cliff. But there are no cliffs here, so once again the choices were fairly limited anyway. We talked of geography and inequality, of Belém and Detroit, of history and health. Feeling less alone, less strange.
After the uplifting conversation I drove home in my car that currently lacks even a simple radio. A hour, hour and a half of driving through a major city, some small towns, and some very dark highways through the countryside. I would be lying if I said I still had Al Green on replay. The concentration required puts me into a state of attention almost like meditation, sliding into reflection, pensiveness, but always coming back to the moment because, well, it is rather necessary when you are behind the wheel of a large automobile. (My automobile is not large but David Byrne was once my spiritual adviser). I drove slowly in the light rain, letting those with less patience pass me as they saw fit. What reason did I have to hurry when I live alone and had nothing in particular to do when I got home besides sleep for eleven or twelve hours.
Upon getting home I was not sleepy and instead put on this Al Green record. And I ended up playing this song, “As Soon As I Get Home,” ten or eleven times in a row. This is a common habit for many people but I very rarely if ever find myself fixated on a song like that. This record sees Al Green entering his religious period but before he started recording straight-up gospel. The lyrics are less direct, more sensuous, often romantic, and remind me somehow of the Qawwali music of the Sufis. With the difference that I can understand the lyrics. This particular song, co-written with Michael Allen whose electric piano rings cascades of texture around the gentle arrangement, is quite possibly Al Green’s most underrated composition. The whole album overflows with the incomparable work of the Hodges brothers — Leroy, Charles, and Teenie on bass, organ, and guitar respectively – who were collectively the stealth missile of Hi Record’s arsenal of sound. These guys make musical understatement into a declaration of virtuosity. One of the last collaborations with producer Willie Mitchell, this record gets buried by his more famous albums from earlier in the decade. And it’s a shame, because this one belongs right alongside them.
There are times when we all feel our soul slipping into darkness. For some of us, we wonder if it even exists or belongs with other fairy-tales like love and God. Enter then, ye of little faith, the Church of Al Green, and find your way home.
Al Green – Full of Fire (1975) in 320kbs em pee tree
Al Green – Full of Fire (1975) in FLAC
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