Random Access Memories
Like a peculiar Doctor Who with skeletons in the closet, R Kelly is moving through time.
Two years back Kelly released Love Letter, a fairly straightforward set of 50s and 60s style soul that represented the sane flipside of his magnum – never-ending – opus Trapped In The Closet. A regular path suited him to an extent, even if a part of us will always miss the lunatic genius, and Write Me Back sees him slip through the eras, this time to the 70s and 80s.
What a great time for soul that was, seeing the heydays of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Barry White and more as Motown broadened its repertoire and Philly soul slipped into disco. It's White that Kelly pays tribute to first, pulling off an expert pastiche on Love Is: "They say love is blind/But I can see clearly when I'm making love to you," he purrs in a typical Walrus Of Love intro before lush strings pamper the groove.
It's just the initial step in a great first half where Bill Withers is evoked in the sweet sounds of Feelin' Single and Harold Melvin is summoned in the emotive When A Man Lies.
Disappointingly there's a real slackening of pace and focus as the album wears on, with Green Light the most tedious of slow jams and Party Jumpin' a hackneyed Grease showtune, but for six songs Kelly's soul chops are as pure as the originals.