The first time you listen to Zach Jones’ “Things Were Better,” you may be tempted to look at a calendar. Or a map.

You see, Jones has perfected the art of time travel. Sure, he’s based in Portland, and the CD says the music was recorded in New Hampshire in 2012. But after one listen, you’ll swear you’ve been transported back to Detroit circa 1965. “Things Were Better” is an old-school R&B/soul record that sounds like a lost classic from the glory days of Motown.

On songs like “Wish I Could Dance” and “Why Should I Cry,” Jones sings with joy and abandon, often with a slight falsetto that brings Smokey Robinson to mind. Other tracks like “Used to Be So Young” recall the psychedelic soul of Marvin Gaye’s early ’70s output. “Same Mistake” and “All The Time” bring a touch of Philly soul to the party.

Regardless of what era or style Jones touches upon in these songs, they are all guaranteed to evoke a physical reaction. You’ll find yourself, dancing, swaying and toe-tapping your way through all 10 tracks.

Certainly, Jones’ voice is the focal point of the album. But even the best soul singers would be nothing without an ace backing band, and that’s exactly what he has assembled here: a top-notch group of musicians with a dynamite rhythm section, and backing vocalists that deliver smooth and soulful harmonies.

The whole sonic package comes beautifully wrapped in a pristine production job, courtesy of Jones himself and Jon Nolan. Close your eyes while you listen; you’ll swear you’re hearing the Funk Brothers backing the Temptations with Berry Gordy Jr. behind the mixing board. Yes, it’s that good.

“Things Were Better” is a delight from start to finish. Jones has created something truly unique: an album that sounds retro and timeless at the same time. Grab a copy of the CD at Bull Moose. Better yet, if you really want to listen to Jones’ music the way it was meant to be heard, grab a vinyl copy of the album (also available at Bull Moose) and let those pops and clicks take you back in time.

Rick Johnson is a freelance writer and radio host from Westbrook. He can be reached at:

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