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BEST R&B BAND Minneapolis 2000 -

Readers' Choice: Prince

With the lamentable split-up of Tony! Toni! Toné!, St. Paul's Mint Condition are also the only best-selling purveyors of contemporary R&B anywhere that you can call a band. That is to say this sextet play guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, and horns, just like in the old days, rather than relying on loops, samples, and drum machines. But there's nothing musty or retro about their groove: Last year's Life's Aquarium assimilated the stuttering, uptempo pulses of Timbaland into their own natural rhythms, without sacrificing the lush balladry that keeps the sweeties swooning. Vocalists Stokely Williams and Homer O'Dell play for the ladies' affections like unreconstructed Seventies soul stars. And to celebrate the release of their instant classic, Mint Condition floored First Avenue in a rare local headlining show that one hopes will be the first of many.

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