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Mixing Classic R&B; Sounds With Sensibility for the ‘90s

**** TONY TONI TONE, “House of Music” Mercury

If it’s ever revealed that Al Green has some secret offspring residing in the Bay Area, don’t be surprised if they answer to the name of Tony Toni Tone. Actually, these sons of soul can trace their creative lineage to several of R&B;'s classic groups, ranging from the Stylistics and New Birth to Sly & the Family Stone.

Using vintage recording equipment and a 40-piece orchestra, the trio has cooked up slow-simmering jams, such as “Still a Man” and the Green-like “Thinking of You,” that are long on retro-soul authenticity. What is striking about the group is that despite its reliance on old-school traditionalism, it still comes up with lyrics that make the time-honored pursuit of love and happiness seem like a fresh, non-cliched concept.

There is something very touching about the way these guys can deliver a tear-stained torch tune like “Wild Child” and make it seem as if it were recorded in some funky little ‘70s-era studio filled with cigarette smoke and takeout barbecue. And it’s a sign of TTT’s own youthful spark and ingenuity that it can make a sound so old and familiar seem new again.

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Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).


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