Boyz II Men

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Throwback Review

by Rob Theakston

In the careers of nearly all adult contemporary artists, there is almost an unspoken, obligatory feeling that compels them to pay homage to their roots and inspirations by issuing covers albums. Sometimes these approaches work wonders for a career (case in point: the rejuvenation of Michael McDonald's career courtesy of a record chock-full of Motown covers, which was the defibrillator to an otherwise pulseless career), and sometimes they don't. Thankfully, the Boyz get it right most of the time on Throwback, but not without some setbacks. The reverence that the Boyz show here is evident by their sincere performances and track selection, which obviously pay homage to the radio and records they grew up with (which is self-evident thanks to the title). However, it's the production that is the dragging anchor keeping this album from really setting sail the way it begs to. Resorting to formulaic cookie-cutter R&B beats and production deters from the group's biggest strength: their voices. Of course, there are exceptions from time to time: an all-acoustic delivery of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature," the Philly soul goodness of Teddy Pendergrass' "Close the Door," and a surprisingly faithful arrangement of the Stylistics' "You Make Me Feel Brand New" all bring their true talents to the forefront. The vocals are just as sharp as ever, especially on their stirring interpretations of Hall & Oates' "Sara Smile" and "Human Nature." It's not a watershed moment in their catalog, but for those die-hard fans who simply love the group, it's an engaging listen and a charming audio yearbook.

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