By the time of 1974’s Al Green Explores Your Mind, this version of the Memphis sound was the production style for only a handful of artists. Producer Willie Mitchell used a lighter touch for his most famous artist, and it’s all but crafted into the Al Green sound. Despite his skills, Green never falls into mannerism here and gives heartfelt and cogent vocals rooted in intelligence and technique. “Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy),” although lyrically slight, has the artist’s charisma and Mitchell’s pop chops.
“Take Me to the River,” with perfect backing from Hi Rhythm and a horn and string arrangement, finds Green at his most persuasive. The last track, “School Days,” has Green longing for a school girlfriend and despite the potentially sappy sentiment, it works like a charm. The greatness of Al Green Explores Your Mind comes from a collective effort, including James Mitchell’s dreamlike string arrangements and the always skilled backing vocals of Rhodes, Chalmers & Rhodes. But the biggest draw here is Green’s phrasing and intimate vocals, making the record an extremely strong effort.