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Delfonics Review: "Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics"

A brilliant new synthesis of retro Philly soul and modern sensibilities

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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Delfonics Review:

The cover of "Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics"

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Like a lot of hip-hop producers, Adrian Younge, who helmed the soundtrack to the recent blaxploitation tribute flick Black Dynamite, uses a lot of old Delfonics samples to construct his loungey, atmospheric creations. So when he found out, through Twitter, that he could actually get Delfonics singer William Hart for a project, he naturally jumped at the opportunity. The result isn't just a comeback for Hart, or even a reconfiguration of that old Philly Soul sound -- it's a complete reimagining of the past, a blend of retro influences that rarely made it to vinyl together, and one which happily sounds as fresh as tomorrow.

About this album

  • Release date: March 12, 2013
  • Label: Wax Poetics
  • Catalog number: 212
  • Musicians:
    William Hart: lead and backing vocals
    Adrian Younge: guitar, bass, piano, Fender Rhodes, Hammond B-3, drums, vibes, saxophones, glockenspiel, harpsichord, piccolo, flute, cello, bells, timpani, electric sitar
    Todd Simon: trumpets, flugelhorn, French horn, euphonium
    C.E. Garcia, Jack Waterson: guitars
    Dave Henderson, Jack Henderson: drums, percussion
    Hannah Blummenfeld: violin, cello
    Alfredo Fratti: flute
    Om'ma Keith, Darren Lee, Saudia Mills, Loren Oden, Dasjuan Rose: backing vocals

  • Produced and engineered by Adrian Younge
    Mastered by Dave Cooley
    Arrangements by Adrian Younge and Todd Simon
    Liner notes by Elvis Mangione
    Executive producers: Dennis Coxen, Brian DiGenti, Andre Torres

Pros

  • William Hart's vocals sound almost like he stepped right off of an old Delfonics 45.
  • Younge crafts a canny blend of retro styles that evoke a sexy, loungey mood.
  • Modern as it sounds, this album is completely analog, both in concept and execution.

Cons

  • Hart's lyrics aren't quite up to the atmosphere.

My review

In the strictest sense, this is not a new Delfonics album. William Hart, that group's famous lead singer blessed with the freakishly beautiful falsetto, is all over it, but he's the only member here; the production (and songs) by underground hip-hop icon Adrian Younge contains some elements of the classic Delfonics sound -- sitar even pops up somewhere, or at least an incredible simulation -- but there's also just as much influence from Europop and trip-hop. And said songs, all entirely new compositions with lyrics by Hart, are a little too esoteric and moody to have made it onto the R&B charts back in the day. This is old-school LP stuff, all deep cuts, mood over marketability. And yet, anyone who's ever loved Hart's unique voice is bound to appreciate the sexy, boozy vibe of this new project, one which exists in a parallel universe where Philly Soul ballads, Italian movie music, and indie hip-hop beats can all coexist peacefully. It's only March, but it'd be hard to conceive of a greater contender for Comeback of the Year. Younge is well-known among deep soul aficionados for doing just this sort of thing to blaxploitation-era soul, but if you've been out of the loop since the Delfs faded out, the good news is that this reconfiguration is quite organic. The beats are modern, but they're totally human: Younge started as a DJ but became a multi-instrumentalist, and those are his drums you're hearing.
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