Given the ubiquity of Al Green in contemporary popular culture — call him Generation Y’s Barry White — the constant appraisal of his career through greatest-hits compilations should be of little surprise. However, Green has received a notable amount of such attention. His “official” Greatest Hits album has been updated four times since its original release in 1975, each time with a different focus: The 1977 appendix Volume 2 simply added more of his hits; 1995’s reissue combined the best of the two editions; 1998’s More Greatest Hits focused on lesser recognized tracks; and the 2005 edition included rare video footage of the singer at various times in his career on a bonus DVD.
Less than two years behind the last update, The Definitive Greatest Hits most notably broadens its scope of Green’s career. In addition to the well-trodden hits like “Let’s Stay Together,” “I’m Still in Love With You,” and “Here I Am (Come and Take Me),” the collection is bookended by his pre-Hi Records hit from 1968 with the Soul Mates “Back Up Train” and his 2003 return to secular music (Green devoted himself to his ministry through the ’80s and ’90s, making only sporadic returns to popular music), the Willie Mitchell-produced “I Can’t Stop.” Definitive still falls short of painting a complete picture of Green’s career, because it overlooks much of his late-’70s output and his less noted gospel work. That said, the omission likely plays well to the tastes of most listeners. Not to mention that a truly comprehensive look at Green would require multiple discs.