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Picks and Pans Review: Ricky Fanté

updated 08/02/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/02/2004 01:00AM

Rewind

CRITIC'S CHOICE

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It's a testament to the exciting talent of retro-soul man Ricky Fanté that R&B legend Isaac Hayes salutes the 26-year-old newcomer in the liner notes of Fanté's debut CD. "I finally heard the type of recording that's been missing in all of our lives," Hayes writes. "It's like manna from heaven for the old school." Indeed, Fanté, with his gritty, gospel-charged growl and organic style that harks back to the golden days of Otis Redding, Al Green (for whom Fanté has opened on tour) and Wilson Pickett (whom Fanté played on American Dreams last March), seems to have stepped into a time machine on Rewind. They just don't make 'em like this anymore. With nary a sample, Fanté authentically re-creates the classic soul of the '50s and '60s, right down to the churchy organs, wah-wah guitars and blaring horns (with charts courtesy of Earth, Wind and Fire arranger Jerry Hey). But Fanté doesn't just get the style right; he also brings real substance with vintage-sounding songs. Cowriting the entire disc with Grammy-winning composer Jesse Harris (see review, page 42), Fanté taps into the heart of a more innocent era on tracks like the first single, "It Ain't Easy (on Your Own)," which borrows elements from a similarly titled 1999 Pickett tune, and the exuberant singalong "Smile." Best, though, is the slow-dance special "A Woman's Touch," which, with its lilting melody and lush orchestration, is guaranteed to pluck your heartstrings.

R&B

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