There’s nothing inherently wrong with trying to recreate the spirit of classic R&B. We all love Motown, Stax, and Philly soul, and wouldn’t it be nice to discover a batch of new songs recalling what was so appealing about that music?
In theory, yes, but between Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Amy Winehouse, Duffy, and the new album from Raphael Saadiq, we’re now seeing a full-blown retro-soul movement, and things are starting to get out of hand. Playing most of the instruments himself, Saadiq stuns you with the accuracy of his pastiches, but since none of these songs match the original sources, it’s tempting to wonder what’s achieved beyond a tambourine-shaking history lesson.
Nearly every track could inspire a spot-the-influence game. “Keep Marchin’” is pure Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions; “Just One Kiss” pays homage to the Temps’ “Just My Imagination”; and “Staying In Love” cribs the guitar line from Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold.”
I prefer Saadiq when he’s a forward-thinking neo-soul man, but you won’t hear a more infectious throwback this year.