Anyone who's seen Late Night With Jimmy Fallon knows the Roots aren't averse to a good cover song, so it's not surprising to see them team up with R&B crooner John Legend for a set of throwback soul tunes. Considering the Roots' prolific output (their own How I Got Over came out just last June), this sounds like something the band could put together fairly easily, but the expertly curated track list and funky arrangements make it more than a tossed-off vanity project.
The band plays tracks like Hard Times and Compared To What like a 21st-century Booker T & the MGs, but they also take risks like turning Bill Withers's Vietnam protest song I Can't Write Left Handed into a nearly 12-minute psychedelic excursion. And while John Legend's straightforward neo-soul delivery often plays it safe, guest rap verses from MCs Black Thought and Common add modern texture without derailing the retro vibe.
Top track: Compared To What