Battle of the Bands – “Take Me to the River”


It’s November already and that means it’s time for another Battle of the Bands, hosted by Stephen McCarthy. Give a listen to the two contenders and vote which version you like better. I’ll post the results in 6 days. Today I’m featuring the song “Take Me to the River.”

“Take Me to the River” is a 1974 song written by singer Al Green and guitarist Mabon “Teenie” Hodges.



The original version was recorded by Al Green as a track on his 1974 album, Al Green Explores Your Mind, produced by Willie Mitchell and featuring musicians Charles, Leroy and Mabon Hodges (The Hodges Brothers), drummer Howard Grimes, and the Memphis Horns. Green and Mabon Hodges wrote the song while staying in a rented house at Lake Hamilton, Arkansas, for three days in 1973 in order to come up with new material. According to Mitchell, Green wrote the words and Green and Hodges wrote the tune together. Green dedicated his performance on the record to “…Little Junior Parker, a cousin of mine, he’s gone on but we’d like to kinda carry on in his name.” According to one writer, “Green’s song squares the singer’s early religious convictions with more earthly interests”, but when the singer became a pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in 1976, he dropped the song from his repertoire.




In 1976, Foghat made the first recording of the song by a rock band, on their album Night Shift. Two years later, it was recorded separately by Levon Helm and Bryan Ferry on solo albums, and then by the band Talking Heads on their second album More Songs About Buildings and Food. Their version, recorded with co-producer Brian Eno in Nassau, Bahamas, was edited and released as a single, and reached # 26 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1979, as well as hitting the singles charts in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Thomas Ryan wrote of Talking Heads’ version that it “broadsided the status quo by combining the best ingredients of conventional pop music and classic soul music, stirring them together, and then presenting the mix in the guise of punk rock.”


TIME TO VOTE! Which version do you like better and why? And when you’re done voting, please visit these other BOTB participants and check out their cool battles:



31 thoughts on “Battle of the Bands – “Take Me to the River”

  1. Rockin’ MICHELE, how’s it rockin’? What, no Heart version? [:o)

    Well, no fan of Yakking Heads here, but you DID manage to find the ONLY one of their recordings I like. No coincidence, I’m sure, that it’s not a Yakking Heads original, but a cover. Yeah, I said it. I said I like their cover. But I DID NOT say I like it better’n AL’s original, because I don’t. An’ you know what dat means…

    Vote: Al “It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green”

    ~ D-FensDogG
    ‘Loyal American Underground’

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Stephen,
      No, no Heart version today. Lol.
      Glad that you at least liked this particular Talking Heads song, even though you don’t like the band.
      I’ve got your vote down for Al “Kermit” Green. 🙂
      Thanks for stopping by…


  2. Hi, One-L!

    I hit the jackpot with this post because “Take Me to the River” is one of my favorite songs. My vinyl and CD collection includes just about every single that came out of Hi Records. I like the smooth soul sound of Hi as much as and in some cases more than that of the Stax/Volt mill. To me the definitive version of “River” was recorded by Hi artist Syl Johnson. Al Green’s version is similar, uses the same session musicians, but is not quite as earthy and gritty. However, I like Al’s rendition just fine and I like it more than the cover by Talking Heads. I admire Talking Heads for their refreshing update of the song. It cooks, no doubt about it, but my ears still prefer the authentic Memphis soul treatment by the Reverend Green. I’m going Green on this one, dear friend Michele. Thank you very much for the morning entertainment, and enjoy your day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Shady.
      The version by Syl Johnson is definitely excellent. And I do like the Talking Heads take on the song.
      Glad that you enjoyed my battle so much. So happy to be able to brighten your morning!
      Thanks for your vote: I have you down for Al Green.

      And yep, already voted. I was standing in line on Day One of early voting. What a turnout!!


  3. Great battle today. I’m torn between both. Al Green is great, but I love the Talking Heads and they do the song well. I think, Al Green will get most of the votes, so I’m going to be a rebel and give the Talking Heads my vote.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lol! Sounds like you had a very sexy weekend getaway. Good for you! We all need those getaways. I’m due for one myself~ 🙂

      Thanks for your vote. Another vote for the Talking Heads…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a great song, and both Reverend Al and The Talking Heads do a fine job of it. As Stephen said, this is the only Talking Heads song I like. In the end, though, Al makes it sound like gospel, and maybe because Al and gospel go together so well, I’m going to go with him.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Michele, this is a great song. This is a no hands-down competition in my book and Al Green totally gets my vote with his smooth vocals and funky soul vibe. Just love his version! You put the groove into my move this evening, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aw, I’m so happy that my battle had you groovin’! Everybody needs a little groove now and then…and frequently, if possible. 🙂
      Thanks for your vote for Al Green…


  6. What a fun contest; it brings back some memories. Years ago, somebody gave me a “Big Mouth Billy Bass” singing fish wall plaque as a joke gift. He sang this, along with “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. I used to look after a little Jack Russell named “Sport” and every time I played that, he would start howling along. 🙂 Al Green was good, but Talking Heads has a cool “Peter Gunn” arrangement and I loved that organ bit in the middle.Please give my vote to Talking Heads.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha. I had that same Billy Bass! I think everyone did. It was so funny. But then the novelty wears off and there are probably a bunch of Billy Bass’s available on ebay or in garage sales! That’s where mine went… 🙂
      But the guy who invented the Billy Bass surely got rich on it. It was a great little item.
      Glad you liked the Talking Heads version. Thanks for your vote.
      Been thinking of you. How’s everything going in Cali??


  7. Hi Angel,
    I love the opening jamming session from Talking Head. It is very good. Yet, my vote is for Al Green. The black gospel spirit come through when Al sings it. It like you’re down in a church. So one vote for Al.
    Shalom aleichem,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Pat,
      Al’s version certainly is soulful! Thanks for your vote.
      Hope you’re having a good weekend!
      Thanks for coming by…


  8. Sorry for the short reply, but I’m playing catch up!

    It’s hard to get me to vote against Al Green. I love him. However, I’m also a fan of this version of the Talking Heads take on it.

    TALKING HEADS today! Don’t tell Al!

    Liked by 1 person

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