Tony! Toni! Toné!, Sons of Soul

What a revelation: an R&B act with actual instruments and actual musicship where the samples serve the tracks instead of just being them. And they built on what they learned in the tropics of Trinidad to turn out a unique album that's clearly of its genre but still stands alone in its quality. Lightfooted lead-off "If I Had No Loot" deserved all the airplay it got, and the throwback soul moments of "What Goes Around Comes Around," "Tell Me Mama" and "Leavin'" brilliantly fuse styles both old and new, yet there's no shortage of new jack swing ("Dance Hall," "Fun") and slow jams ("I Couldn't Keep It To Myself" and the knowingly corny "Slow Wine," with honey-on-biscuits vocal advising "let me explain") to round out the cycle. Some aspects aren't so positive: "My Ex-Girlfriend" is misogynistic schadenfreude with a beat, "(Lay Your Head On My) Pillow" is just a little too transparent, the drudgerous "Tonyies! In The Wrong Key" is probably on the wrong record too, and the otherwise dazzlingly smooth "Anniversary" and its 9-minute running time exemplify the album's other collective flaw, that it drags on just a little longer than it ought to. But most of their contemporaries were content to rely on overproduction and undercreation, and many still do, so let this be the analogue antidote. They're truly the offspring of the magic of soul, and I suspect soul overall is pretty darn proud of them. (Content: adult themes.)