Ricky Fanté

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    7
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On the surface, this sounds fine. Fanté sings like the lost child of Otis Redding, and the songs are so retro you could slip them into an oldies station without many people being any the wiser. However, listen more closely and you hear something that's not quite right. Music hasn't stood still, so to put in lines that sound like the Memphis Horns, or a rhythm section that wants to be from Stax or Muscle Shoals, smacks of fakery. And the songs themselves, pleasant as they are, are riddled with clichés. Fine if you're not paying attention, but ultimately not real. And while Fanté's voice sounds fine, the sweat and emotion are missing. Put him next to the soul greats and it's quite obvious. He might have graduated from the church and the street corners, but there's no hole in his heart -- he's not singing for his life the way Redding or Wilson Pickett did; he doesn't get under your skin. In other words, there's plenty of calculation behind this album. Yes, it still sounds fine as background, and with neo-soul increasing in popularity he'll doubtless find an audience to lap it up among both the hipsters and the boomers. But you can't replicate feel, and though this album has all the right notes in all the right places, it's just not the real thing.

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