By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
As its title implies, the disc takes a spin through the Motown vaults and reinterprets such greats as "Just My Imagination" and "Mercy Mercy Me." Despite the presence of American Idol's Randy Jackson as producer, the classics are treated with respect — live instrumentation, no sops to hip-hop, and even the presence of the horn section from the Dap-Kings, one of America's own homegrown young R&B acts. But while it sold respectably, the release generated mostly yawns amongst the thinking set.
Not so, on the other hand, with the parade of young British chanteuses who have appeared on our shores to hosannas on what seems like a near-weekly basis over the past year — beginning, of course, with the spectacularly troubled Amy Winehouse, but also including the likes of Duffy, Adele and even Lily Allen. All of these women, to a greater or lesser extent, draw on the same trove of '60s soul influences that animated Hitsville, and all have come up with winning singles, even if they'll likely never sell 60 million records collectively. In the wake of their ascendance, however, the notion that Boyz II Men — who just offered the same sounds and an almost-identical aesthetic — is a washed-up oldies act is intriguing, to say the least.
Of course, since Boyz II Men applies that aesthetic to actual oldies, instead of originals, the perception has some basis in fact. So consider, then, the case of Sharon Jones, a former Rikers Island prison guard who leads the Dap-Kings and makes the most authentic-sounding vintage R&B around. To compare Jones to any of the aforementioned British chanteuses would be doing them a grave disservice, as you can (and should) hear on any of the three magnificent albums she's released on the tiny Daptone label (2007's 100 Days, 100 Nights is the latest).
But Jones is fifty years old and black, barely scraping the bottom of the Billboard charts. She might be wondering why we ever signed that treaty, too. — Dan LeRoy
8 p.m. Friday, August 1. Live Off the Levee, Soldier's Memorial Plaza. Free. 314-434-3434.