“A member of Ku Klux Klan doesn’t need a frying pan upside the head! He needs an Al Green record and some good books. He needs better information so he can make better decisions and reach better conclusions. He needs to be inspired.”
These words are taken from a commencement speech that Henry Rollins gave at Sonoma College. (How amazing would that be to have Rollins be your speaker? I got a military officer. It seemed like a peculiar choice for a school of journalism/communication, but whatever.) I think about this a lot, because right now we’re in a time where racism and white supremacist ideology is a lot more out in the open than it had been for a while, and I find it utterly maddening. But I also know that some people come out of it. Some people do, in a manner of speaking, see the light, or more accurately the error of their ways.
Henry Rollins isn’t necessarily saying that Al Green is literally the answer. But he’s not a bad start. When I listen to Al Green, I hear joy. I hear humanity. I hear something that can improve and soften your mood, and take you somewhere you didn’t expect to go.
Call Me does that. And it’s ironic, in a way, because it’s a breakup album. But while it’s an album that deals in sadness, loneliness and pain, it’s not a hopeless album. It’s not a defeatist album. I listen to it and I hear joy, in part because that’s just the power of Al Green. His voice, his amazing backing band (who, I might add, played soul music that was particularly complex for being mainstream—the chord sequence in the title track is just stunning), it’s all part of music that’s meant to inspire. I’m not a religious person, but when I hear “Jesus Is Waiting,” I feel something.
I picked this up at the San Diego Record Show, along with The River (and a handful of other records I’ll be mentioning this week), and it filled a gap in my collection that had been empty for too long. And while it’s an album that maybe wasn’t in pristine condition (though it sounds great for the most part), I take comfort in the fact that it was given the proper attention by someone before me.
Because it’s not just those who have erred in their ways that need an Al Green album; everybody does.
Sound Quality: Good/Great