R&B crooners of the '70s were often just as sentimental and delusional as they are now, but at least their breakup songs sounded more bruised and heartfelt. It might be a matter of musicianship. Case in point: Roots drummer ?uestlove's latest vintage groove compilation, Babies Making Babies Vol. 2, a bittersweet follow-up to the gushing, ecstatic love ballads on 2000's Vol. 1. Characterized by their slippery piano chords and crescendoing string sections, the tunes on this mix CD (provided by Bobby Womack, Average White Band, the Delfonics, and so on) sound intimate, achy, and overwhelmingly despondent -- no looped Kanye West sequence or whiny T-Pain contralto could ever get under your skin this way. It doesn't matter that some of ?uestlove's selections aren't perfect gems, because the heartache theme still gives Vol. 2 a definite shape and heft. And granted, the best numbers -- provided by Al Green, Natalie Cole, and the Ohio Players -- are earnest and sad enough to put you on that midnight subway train, or just a lonely stairwell, with a rumpled coat and a hat over your eyes.
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