When Raphael Saadiq, along with his partners in Tony! Toni! Toné!, wrote and recorded songs like "It Never Rains in Southern California" and "Whatever You Want," he earned himself a lifetime "Do Whatever You Want" card. One could disregard his third solo studio album for being the equivalent of a Civil War reenactment, sounding much more like "instant vintage" R&B than 2002's Instant Vintage. If you want to listen to some '60s and early-'70s soul, play some soul that came out in the '60s and early '70s, right? Save for an intrusive Jay-Z appearance on a bonus version of "Oh Girl," however, this time warp never loosens its grip, unless you cannot help but position the protagonist in "Big Easy" -- where Saadiq nails a classic tactic exemplified by the likes of Holland-Dozier-Holland, matching bliss-inducing music with saddening lyrics -- squarely within 2005 New Orleans.
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