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August 2004

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Ricky Fanté
  Virgin Records

Ricky Fante

I have to preface this review by stating this is an incredible album. It is so good that after listening to it five or six times, it seems to get better each time. It is far and away the best new CD of 2004 and one I cannot imagine being surpassed in this year's final voting.

If I had closed my eyes, and hadn't heard this album before, I would have sworn that I was listening to a vintage soul album from the sixties. It has that combination of Southern based gospel, driving horns, a prominent organ and bass grooves to stir your soul.

Ricky Fanté is a 25-year-old Washington, D.C. native who now resides in L.A. His gritty, infectiously heartfelt vocals are infused with the spirit and verve of the likes of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Al Green. The backing band transports us back to the heyday of the great Stax and Muscle Shoals bands that backed the likes of Sam & Dave with a driving Willie Mitchell studio sound that made Al Green's early recordings so classic.

This is no mere copycat, though, but a new classic that will take its place alongside all those great soul albums that proceeded it. Rewind is a release that will make you smile and reflect on how good this music once was.

A listen to the first single from this album, "It Ain't Easy," certainly has the feel of a gritty Otis Redding song and the classic beat and instrumentation of late '60s Memphis in all its glory.

The opening track, "I Let You Go," could easily have been the first single selected, as could so many of these songs since they are catchy and memorable. This one has those great in-your-face horns producing a nearly perfect track.

The sixth track, "Love Doesn't Live Here No More," with its Motown "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" opening, takes us up north for three minutes of pure soul heaven.

The mournful "It's Over Now" is my favorite track, with Ricky's pleading vocals telling it like it is.

Skipping to the final track, "A Woman's Touch," a heartfelt ballad that closes this CD on such a high level of intensity that you sit there drained, barely with enough strength to click the repeat button and do it all over again.

If you buy only one new release this year, you cannot go wrong with this one. 12 tracks of greatness, and a video of "It Ain't Easy" on this enhanced CD as a bonus. It just doesn't get any better than this.

--- Alan Shutro

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