As our cycles of music nostalgia constantly churn, even specific subgenres get their day back in the sun. The current favored brand of retro R&B may have shifted from the Southern soul funk, as exemplified by the Daptone sound (although it is still certainly a vibrant force – see the new Charles Bradley record, Victim of Love, for instance), to the Philly Sound of the late 60s & early 70s. Bands like the Dells, the O’Jays & the Spinners have served as inspiration for the likes of Jill Scott, Raphael Saadiq & Cee Lo Green, not to mention proving a rich mine of sample sources for some of hip-hop’s savviest producers.
Another young artist inspired by the Philly soul of yesteryear is LA-based producer Adrian Younge, who has dabbled with a number of retro sounds (psychedelic soul & Blaxploitation funk, to name two) on previous releases. But a chance internet encounter with William Hart, founder of one of the leading lights of the Philly scene, the Delfonics, led to this inspired collaboration. Known for his soaring vocals on such classic hits as “La-La (Means I Love You)” & “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time),” Hart finds a perfectly sympathetic partner in Younge, who matches Hart’s emotional content with a tougher, more contemporary production that nicely balances the sweetness with the grit and keeps the retro vibes from being slavishly mimicked. Younge’s musical smarts have given a legendary talent like Hart a place to shine again, even in his 80s.
-Eric J. Lawrence