Unless you’re a serious beat-head or soul aficionado, you probably haven’t heard of The Delfonics before. There’s good reason for that though, because they haven’t been popular since 1974. The Philadelphia soul group released an album entitled Forever New in 1999, but it was demoted to the nearest bargain bin quicker than the time it took to play the whole thing through once. This is where a certain Adrian Younge steps in. The soul music revivalist and film score composer (he’s responsible for the soundtrack in the Blaxploitation spoof Black Dynamite) has taken the veteran group under his wing and guided them in the recording of their latest release Adrian Younge Presents The Delfonics.
Producers and beat junkies will already know of The Delfonics as they are used extensively for sampling. Snoop Dogg, Gang Starr and Juelz Santana have all utilized samples of the group and believe it or not, The Fugees “Ready Or Not” is actually a rework of The Delfonics’ track “Ready Or Not Here I Come (Can’t Hide From Love)“. The sparse instrumentation coupled with William Hart’s eerie, higher-register vocals is perfect sample fodder, and producers will be glad to hear that they more-or-less stay true to their trademark sound throughout this LP. Opening track “Stop And Look (And You Have Found Love)” is one of the most haunting tracks they’ve ever written, emphasized by Hart’s reverb-heavy vocals that slowly descend in pitch as they tail off, at times sounding as if they’re going to crash-land right outside your house. What’s more, you would never normally expect that standard of voice to come out of a man who is well into his ’80s.
A few more songs in and it becomes clear that this LP is certainly no throwaway effort. Songs such as “Just Love” and album closer “Life Never Ends” are straight-up brilliant soul songs that could’ve easily topped charts had they been released in the mid ’70s, and the collective success of these tracks has to come down to Adrian Younge. His compositional skills and musical guidance have allowed the band to be much more critical with what works and what doesn’t chiseling the elements of their sound down to the bare essentials. The dense string and brass arrangements that were once prominent are now gone, replaced with much sparser instrumentation that allows each song to breathe with ease.
Other highlights include the infectious bossanova patterns of “So In Love With You”, the return of Hart’s soaring falsetto range in “True Love” and the track “Stand Up”, probably the song most obviously tweaked by Younge thanks to its in-the-pocket breakbeat drum groove.
The Delfonics didn’t need to make another album, but respect to Adrian Younge for getting them to do so. The record manages to sound distinguishable between their older material yet still maintain their soul roots, and it’s always great to be reminded of exactly why they are so influential within the hip-hop world. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m spending the rest of the day singing in falsetto.