The Belle Album
is the last great secular record Al Green made before giving his life over to preaching the gospel. (He returned to the Hi Records formula in 2003 with I Can't Stop
, but that's another story.) It's the first album Green produced himself and the first to feature only Green compositions, most co-written with bass man Reuben Fairfax and keyboard player Fred Jordan. The production isn't as crisp as it was on his classic Hi albums, even on this reissue. Still, the songs are every bit as compelling. In "Loving You," Green celebrates secular and spiritual love with all his trademark fire. "All in All" drops a bit of Motown into its rhythm; it's one of the most stirring gospel tunes Green's ever cut. "I Feel Good," with its extended instrumental vamp, was obviously aimed at the 1970s disco market but it still packs a punch. In 1977, people seemed puzzled at Green's desire to mix earthly and heavenly material, forgetting soul music's deep roots in the black church. But looking back with 20/20 hindsight, it's clear that The Belle Album
stands as another soulful page in Green's book of love.