RECOMMENDED SOUL CDs
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How Band Got Their Names
Steely Dan: A dildo in the William Burroughs novel "Naked Lunch".

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Like to sing in the shower, but can't quite remember the words?

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Misheard Lyrics Archive
Hilarious! " 'scuse me, while I kiss this guy"

Museum of Bad Album Covers
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Melba More

Bobby Womack

 

The Four Tops

Gladys Knight & The Pips

The Temptations

The Spinners

Leon Ware

 

100% Pure Poison: Coming Right At You (EMI 1974/Soul Brother UK)
Produced by: Danny Leake & Rick Hartung
A rare gem of 70s soul recorded in Germany by American servicemen on leave, but with a sound that's right out of the Chicago or Detroit groove of the pre-disco years. The album has got a great overall sound, almost like some of the 70s jazzy soul albums on Fantasy. Incl. the jazzy break classic "Windy C".

   
Ace Spectrum: Inner Spectrum (Atlantic 1974)
Produced by: Tony Silvester & Ed Zant
A great debut from Ace Spectrum -- a harmony quartet who never cracked the charts as much as some of their east coast contemporaries, but who were every bit as great. The album's got a soaring sound strongly influenced by Philly, but recorded in New York and beautifully put together with arrangements by Bert DeCoteaux and production by Tony Silvester and Ed Zant. Jap. CD release only.

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Oleta Adams: Circle Of One (Fontana 1990)
Produced by: Roland Orzabal & Dave Bascombe
Discovered by Tears For Fears while performing solo in the lounge at Hyatt Regency, Kansas City, and was featured prominently on their Seeds Of Love album. Tears for Fears member Roland Orzabal produced her excellent "Quiet Storm" 1990 debut album Circle Of One which was nominated for a Grammy. Featuring the Brenda Russell hit "Get Here".

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Rance Allen Group: Say My Friend (Capitol 1977/Soul Brother UK)
Produced by: Mizell Brothers
A collaboration between the Mizell Brothers and Rance Allen. The set's quite different from Rance's earlier work for Stax, with excellent production by Mizell. Rance's spiritual vocals are just great and the whole album's essential for both Mizell fans, and any lover of righteous 70s soul! UK CD release.

   
J.R. Bailey: Just Me 'n You (MAM 1974/Soul Brother UK)
Produced by: JR Bailey
A really sublime rare groover from JR Bailey, a former member of the  Cadillacs in the 60s. Just Me 'n You is a great (and pretty obscure) 70s mellow soul album with echoes of Marvin Gaye, Leroy Hutson, Al Johnson and Donny Hathaway. JR wrote and co-produced all the tunes on the set throwing a bit of jazz into it with complicated changes and warm overtones. Arrangements are by Bailey with Bert DeCoteaux (who also did production work for Main Ingredient), Ken Williams, Paul Griffin and Horace Ott. UK CD release.

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Anita Baker: Rapture (Elektra 1986)
Produced by: Michael J. Powell & Anita Baker
This is Anita Baker's 2nd solo album after leaving Chapter 8, and  Rapture is definitely her best. An album that single handedly introduced the "Quiet Storm" genre. 8 strong mellow songs and a very good production by Michael J. Powell.

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Blue Magic: Soulful Spell (Best of) (Atlantic/Rhino 1996)
Produced by: Various
R&B vocal quintet formed in Philadelphia and signed to Atlantic Records in 1973. They hit the Top40 of the R&B singles chart with their first three 45s before breaking through and crossing over with "Sideshow" in 1974, which went gold, topped the R&B charts and became a Top Ten pop hit. Their next single "Three Ring Circus", made the R&B Top10 and the pop Top40. They are all included on this great 20 track compilation.

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Johnny Bristol: The MGM Collection (Limited Edition) (MGM/Hip-O 2004)
Produced by: Johnny Bristol
Bristol comes across as something between Barry White, Marvin Gaye and Isaac Hayes. The 21 track MGM Collection gathers his two very much underrated releases for the MGM label, "Hang On in There Baby" (1974) and "Feeling the Magic" (1975), plus the rare 1980 re-recording of "Hang On in There Baby" with Alton McClain that is otherwise unavailable on CD.

   
Tom Brock: I Love You More and More (20th Century 1974/Soul Brother UK)
Produced by: Barry White
Another very good mellow soul album complete with the unmistakably sound of Barry White. Tom's only release and finally available on CD thanks to Soul Brother Records in the UK. For more of the same, check out Gloria Scott's "What Am I Gonna Do", also produced by Barry White and released in 1974. Both now available on CD.

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Randy Brown: Welcome To My Room (Mercury 1978)
Produced by: Homer Banks & Carl Hampton
A forgotten soul gem finally available on CD by this overlooked talent with a kind of softer Teddy Pendergrass voice. Most of the tracks are slow and sexy -- and is on the level of some of Leroy Hutson's best mid 70's work -- with sweet and warm Gamble & Huff-like production by Banks & Hampton.
 
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Terry Callier: Fire on Ice (Elektra 1978)
Terry Callier: Turn You To Love (Elektra 1979)
Terry Callier: Lookin' Out (Universal 2005)

Produced by: Eric Hochberg & Terry Callier
Although his single debut came back in 1962(!), soul/jazz/folk singer/songwriter Terry Callier is finally beginning to earn the recognition long due him after his rediscovery during the early '90s. His excellent 2005 Lookin' Out is the record Callier has been looking to make since he resumed recording in the early 90s. It's a superb 17 track set that accents all of his strengths, including his trademark song writing style that blends folk, pop, soul and jazz. Outstanding!

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Charles & Eddie: Duophonic (Capitol 1992)
Charles & Eddie: Chocolate Milk (Capitol 1995)

Produced by: Josh Deutsch
Very 70's soul inspired and with voices that harmonize beautifully, Charles Pettigrew & Eddie Chacon delivers classic soul on both "Duophonic" and "Chocolate...". Although both albums are a bit uneven, a compilation consisting of the best cuts would have been a killer and right up there with the best of the best soul releases ever!

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Con Funk Shun: The Ballads Collection (Mercury/Polygram 1998)
Produced by: Skip Scarborough and others
12 remastered ultra strong ballads by California based Con Funk Shun, compiled by the two leaders Felton Pilate and Michael Cooper themselves. Too bad they didn't include one of my all-time favourites "By Your Side". Nevertheless a great collection of romantic slow jams.

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Norman Connors: Take It To the Limit (Arista 1980)
Produced by: Norman Connors
The usual Norman Connors are more Jazz/Funk, but his 1980 offering Take it to the Limit is pure mellow and smooth soul. Featuring Al Johnson, Glenn Jones and Adaritha on vocal.

   
Jay Dee: Come On In Love (Warner Bros. 1974)
Produced by: Barry White
Produced and mostly written by Barry White with arrangements by Gene Page, Come On In Love includes the superb 7 minute "Strange Funky Games And Things" originally recorded by Barry White for his Love Unlimited Orchestra.

   
Delfonics: The Definitive Collection (Bell/Camden UK 1999)
Produced by: Thom Bell
Among the originators of the Philly soul sound of the late '60s and pre-disco '70s, the Delfonics cut several hits with the same basic formula of ultra-romantic three part harmonies on top of a supremely mellow accompaniment with lush string orchestrations. This is the UK version of the US CD "La La Means I Love You: The Definitive Collection". The 20 tracks are the same, but the cover is different. If you like Blue Magic and Stylistics, get this!

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The Dells: I Touched a Dream/Whatever Turns You on (20th Century 1980/1981)
The Dells: Passionate Breezes (Best of 1975-1991) (Mercury/Polygram 1995)

Produced by: Eugene Records & Carl Davis
This Chicago quintet formed in 1955 have made only one personnel change in their entire professional career. Their style has shifted from doo wop and soul to disco and urban contemporary. Their harmony remains as striking as ever, with Marvin Junior's earthshaking lead enduring as the group's focal point. After a couple of pretty weak albums in the mid 70's their career was at a halt until they changed label to 20th Century in 1980 and released "I Touched a Dream" followed by "Whatever Turns You On" in '81. Both strong albums and now available as 2-on-1 from Southbound Records UK.
For more of the same, check the compilation Passionate Breezes containing 15 tracks from between 1975 and 1991 including "I Touched a Dream", "Whatever Turns You On", "Stay In My Corner" and "All About the Paper".

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Buy it on Amazon.com
 
Dramatics: Be My Girl - Greatest Hits Vol.1 (MCA/Hip-O 1998)
Dramatics: Say The Word - Greatest Hits Vol.2 (MCA/Hip-O 1999)
Dramatics: Mellow Drama (Groovesville 1995)

Produced by: Various
Detroit R&B vocal group that scored numerous hits for Volt and ABC and maintained their momentum through the disco era. The early Dramatics hits for Volt lived up to their billing with the emphatic vocals of Ron Banks powering the funky "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get", their first big-seller in 1971, and the R&B chart-topping ballad "In the Rain" in 1972. The quintet was just as successful later in the decade, signing with ABC in 1975 and scoring repeatedly throughout the disco-fever days. These two compilations - with a total of 30 tracks - contains most of the songs you need, including their classic version of the Hall & Oates penned "Do What You Want, Be What You Are".
The 1995 release Mellow Drama was actually recorded in the mid 70s and shelved by ABC Records. The songs was then slightly updated in 1995 and released as a tribute to the late Tony Hester. Most of the tracks was written by him. This is great stuff that favourably compares with their other releases from their mid to late 70s period for ABC Records.

  Buy it on Amazon.com
Buy it on Amazon.com
Buy it on Amazon.com
 
Earth, Wind & Fire: The Promise (Kalimba 2003)
Produced by: Maurice White ++
This is - maybe except for Millennium (1993) - their best effort since the much underrated Faces album back in 1980! Produced by Maurice White and features Angie Stone, Gerald Albright and The Emotions together with a little help from Bill Meyers, Wayne Vaughn, Jerry Hey, Carlos Rios, Paulinho Da Costa and others. The sound is excellent and the songs are in good EW&F tradition - great melodies and arrangements, strong grooves, real horns and lots of superlative ballads - many featuring Maurice on lead vocals. More on EW&F...

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Marvin Gaye: What's Going On (Motown 1971)
Marvin Gaye: I Want You (Motown 1976)
Marvin Gaye: Here My Dear (Motown 1978)

Produced by: Marvin Gaye
What's Going On - probably the best album ever recorded! A must in every record collection! With classics like "What's Going On", "Mercy Mercy Me" and "Inner City Blues". You should definitely go for the 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition release. A double remastered CD set with 26 (!) bonus cuts containing the early original Detroit mix of the entire album and 12 previously unreleased live tracks from The Kennedy Center back in 1972.
Also released in the excellent Deluxe Edition series is another Gaye classic, the 1976 I Want You. The album has an unmistakably Leon Ware sound since most of the tracks were to go on Ware's Motown debut, Musical Massage [see below], until Motown's Berry Gordy got a listen and decided that they'd be even better for Gaye, as the artist had not released a studio album since 1973's Let's Get It On. The Deluxe Edition of I Want You contains 15 previously unreleased outtakes, alternate mixes etc.
Highly recommended is also Gaye's very much underrated double LP (1CD) Here My Dear from 1978. A 13 track testimony about his marriage and divorce from Anna, sister of Motown founder Berry Gordy.

  Buy it on Amazon.com
Buy it on Amazon.com
Buy it on Amazon.com
 
General Johnson: s/t (Arista 1976)
Produced by: Rick Chertoff & General Johnson
Grammy-winning songwriter and former lead singer of Chairmen Of The Board, Norman Earl Johnson died October 2010. His 1976 solo album contains one of my absolute all-time favourite soul tracks; "Don't Walk Away". Edsel UK released the CD The Best of the Arista Years in 2011 which basically is the complete 1976 album with a couple of 7" versions added as bonus.

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Billy Griffin: Like Water (Expansion 2006)
Produced by: Billy Griffin and various
Replacing Smokey Robinson as lead singer with The Miracles in the 70s, Billy Griffin is back in excellent form on his 2006 offering Like Water. A smooth batch of sophisticated modern soul tunes just as good as his solo work from the early 80s.

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Donny Hathaway: Extension of a Man (Warner Bros. 1973)
Produced by: Arif Mardin
Including "Someday We'll All Be Free", "Valdez in the Country" and "I'll Love You More Than You Ever Know", this is truly a soul masterpiece! Being one of the brightest new voices in soul music in the early 70's, Hathaway suffered from severe depression which occasionally got him hospitalized. He more or less retreated from the spotlight after "Extensions...", and in 1979 Hathaway was found dead on the sidewalk below the 15th-floor window of his room in New York's Essex House. The glass had been neatly removed from the window, and there were no signs of struggle, leading investigators to rule Hathaway's death a suicide.

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Isaac Hayes Black Moses (Stax 1971)
Isaac Hayes: Shaft (Stax 1971)
Isaac Hayes: Truck Turner - OST (Stax 1974)
Isaac Hayes: XL (Best Of) (Stax/Amigo Sweden 2000)

Produced by: Isaac Hayes
Few had greater influence over the music of the 60's and 70's than Isaac Hayes; after laying the groundwork for the Memphis soul sound through his work with Stax-Volt Records, Hayes began a highly successful solo career which predated not only the disco movement but also the evolution of rap. He reached his commercial peak in 1971 with the release of "Shaft", the score from the Gordon Parks film of the same name. Not only did the album win Hayes an Academy Award for Best Score (the first African-American composer to garner such an honor), but the single "Theme From 'Shaft,'" a masterful blend of funk and pre-rap monologues, became a #1 hit.
Also check out the superb Black Moses album also released in 1971. Both Shaft and Black Moses were originally released as double albums.
The soundtrack to the Truck Turner movie is a lost but really nice little gem. Mostly containing instrumentals, this does not include any Hayes classics, but as an album, it is overall much better than many of his other offerings.
There are lots of Isaac Hayes compilations out there. Definitely one of the best is the 21 track 2 CD-set XL: Best Of compiled in 2000 by Amigo Records, Sweden. This has all the classic tracks from his peak period at Stax, most of which are long-running album versions. If this still isn't enough, check out the 2005 2 disc/32 track Ultimate Isaac Hayes - Can You Dig It? from Stax

  Buy it on Amazon.com
Buy it on Amazon.com
Buy it on Amazon.com
 
Heaven & Earth: I Can't Seem To Forget You (GEC 1976/P-Vine Jap)
Produced by: Clarence Johnson
The classic first album by this Chicago harmony group -- and a monster it is! Heaven & Earth had a wonderful falsetto harmony sound that reminds of east coast acts like Blue Magic or The Stylistics. Excellent production by Clarence Johnson with arrangements by Tom Tom 84. The whole album is amazingly well put together for an -- at the time --indie soul group.

   
Willie Hutch: Try It You'll Like it (Best Of) (Expansion 2003)
Produced by: Willie Hutch
Expansion Records in the UK have made a truly great compilation of work by Willie Hutch -- one of the hippest artists in 70s soul! Hutch was the master of the super mellow groove, and this compilation has 18 tracks of just that.

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Leroy Hutson: Lucky Fellow - The Curtom Anthology (Curtom/Sequel UK 1999)
Produced by: Leroy Hutson
If you enjoy Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye or Johnny Bristol, you're gonna love this! Subtitled 'The Curtom Anthology', this collection is the first definitive retrospective of the soul legend's hits for Curtis Mayfield's Curtom label from 1972-1978. The first disc contains 17 tracks from this period; the second disc contains his final album for Curtom, the 1979 "Unforgettable". All tracks remastered from the original master tapes.

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Phyllis Hyman: Under Her Spell (Best Of) Buddah/BMG UK 1990)
The UK version of the Under Her Spell collection has 14 tracks instead of the poor 10 track US version. The UK version is probably now deleted, so you should instead check out the brilliant 1996 2-CD set "Legacy of Phyllis Hyman" on Arista. 28 songs ranging from light pop soul to smooth R&B jazz including her classic version of "Betcha By Golly, Wow".
Also check out UK Expansion Records In Between the Heartaches. A great collection of various demo sessions and forgotten recordings together with the unreleased, but excellent 1982 McCoy Tyner tracks.

  Buy it on Amazon.com
Buy it on Amazon.com
 
Isley Brothers: Greatest Hits (Sony 1997)
Isley Brothers: Love Songs (Sony 2000)

Produced by: Isley Brothers
Isley Brothers: Eternal (SKG 2001)
Produced by: R. Kelly and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis ++
There are dozens of Isley Bros. compilations out there. Personally I find both these Sony releases, - the 13 track ballads-only "Love Songs" and the more funky 15 track "Greatest Hits", very good. The Sony Legacy crew has once again done a great job with the sound. If you just can't get enough, try the 3 CD box-set "It's Your Thing: The Story of the Isley Bros". A truly timeless collection!
After more than 40 years and 40+ albums, the 2001 Eternal rates among some of their best work. Although just Ronald and Ernie are left of all the brothers and cousins, this is as good as it gets. 14 smooth (and extremely sexy) R&B tracks with Ernie's almost Jimmy Hendrix-like guitar in the background, binding it all together. His guitar work on "Ernie's Jam" is just excellent, and the cover versions of Chic's "Warm Summer Night" and Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now" are both killers. The production team - consisting of R. Kelly and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis among others - never takes completely control. They simply let Ronald and Ernie do what they do best. This is not the case on their latest offering -  the 2003 "Body Kiss" - which in fact should be called R. Kelly feat. the Isley Bros.

  Buy it on Amazon.com
Buy it on Amazon.com
 
Ron Isley & Burt Bacharach: Isley Meets Bacharach (SKG 2003)
Produced by: Burt Bacharach
Bacharach classics sung by veteran Ron Isley, who's voice is sweeter and more resonant than ever. This is a fantastic and beautiful effort that combines the classic pop song with the emotion of great soul singing.

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Millie Jackson: Free and in Love (Spring 1976)
Millie Jackson: Lovingly Yours (Spring 1976)
Millie Jackson: Get It Outcha' System (Spring 1978)
Millie Jackson: A Moment's Pleasure (Spring 1979)
Millie Jackson: For Men Only (Spring 1980)

Produced by: Brad Shapiro
Millie Jackson's uncensored raps have earned her a reputation as an X-rated soul artist who isn't afraid to tell it like it is. The Georgia native moved to New Jersey as a teenager, making her debut in 1970 for MGM, then moved to Spring Records the next year and embarked on a long string of soul hits. Also check out Millie's "Live and Uncensored".

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Al Johnson: Peaceful (Marina 1978)
Al Johnson: Back For More (CBS 1980/Sony Jap)

Produced by: Norman Connors
Born Alfred Orlando Johnson in Washington, Al started as out as lead singer with The Unifics in the mid '60's. In 1978, he became part of the group Positive Change, who released one album on Fortress Records (Avail. on CD from UK label Expansion). Also in 1978, he recorded his debut solo album Peaceful for the Marina label (including his original version of 'I've Got My Second Wind'). In 1980, Norman Connors produced Al's CBS album Back For More which is a bit disco, but definitely worth checking out because of the 3 killer mellow tracks "Back For More" - a duet with Jean Carn, "Tonight's the Night for Love", and the remake of "I've Got My Second Wind". Both albums are Jap. CD releases only.

 
 
Joneses: s/t (Epic 1977)  
Produced by: Bobby Eli
Starting out in 1969 in Pittsburg, The Joneses signed to Mercury in the early 70s where they had US hits like "Hey Babe" and "Sugar Pie Guy". They broke up in 1975, but in the following years there were four resurrections of the group, the first in 1977 and the last in 1992, and each time the only constant in the new line-ups being Glenn Dorsey. Their excellent 1977 album was produced by Bobby Eli which provided the group with a bit of a Philly sound. Jap. CD release only.

   
Kenny Lattimore: Kenny Lattimore (Columbia 1996)
Kenny Lattimore: From the Soul of Man (Columbia 1998)

Produced by: Various
Marvin Gaye meets Donny Hathaway on these two great mellow soul albums from Kenny Lattimore. From The Soul Of Man is excellent produced by himself and co-producer Colin Gayle and Lattimore sings with all the emotion and soul of his heroes Marvin and Donny. Lattimore had at least a hand in writing most of 14 tracks on "...Soul of Man" (incl. 1 unlisted bonus track), but he also made some inspired choices of material to cover. His version of Al Cooper's "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" (a tribute to the version by his idol Hathaway) is a killer, and doing George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" as soul, - sounds great.

 
 
Ephraim Lewis: Skin (Elektra 1992)
Produced by: Kevin Bacon (?) & Jonathan Quarmby
Sounding a bit like Seal at times, this is an excellent mellow and only release from Ephraim Lewis, who sadly passed away some years ago. Including the jazzy minor hit "Drowning in Your Eyes".

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Main Ingredient: Bitter Sweet (RCA 1972)
Main Ingredient: Afrodisiac (RCA 1973)

Produced by: Bert DeCoteaux
Main Ingredient: Rolling Down a Mountainside (RCA 1975)
Main Ingredient: Music Maximus (RCA 1977)
Main Ingredient: Everybody Plays the Fool - The Best Of (RCA 2005)

Produced by: Various
Classic ultra smooth soul, Main Ingredient are best remembered for their 1972 classic ”Everybody Plays the Fool”, but they released a number of other great singles, mostly during the first half of the 1970s when they hooked up with producer Bert DeCoteaux, who had an excellent sense of lush orchestrated soul sound. Cuba Gooding (father of film actor Cuba Gooding Jr.) came on board in 1972 and they released "Afrodisiac" (which featured Stevie Wonder and several of his compositions -- "Superwoman", "Where Were You When I Needed You", "Something Lovely", "Girl Blue", and "I Am Yours". The album also includes the beautiful ballad "Goodbye My Love", and their excellent version of Isley Brothers' "Work To Do".
For more of the same you should check out the 2005 16 track compilation Everybody Plays the Fool  - The Best Of Main Ingredient on RCA.

  Buy it on Amazon.com
Buy it on Amazon.com
 
Manhattans: Kiss and Say Goodbye (Best Of) (Columbia 1995)
Produced by: Bobby Martin & Leo Graham
19 tracks of great vocal harmonies! A venerable soul quintet from New Jersey, whose career has spanned the dawn of soul and the death of disco, although they have steadfastly preferred ballads over the years. Led initially by George Smith, who died in 1970, the Manhattans first charted in 1965 with "I Wanna Be (Your Everything)". After a string of solid R&B sellers on Carnival and DeLuxe, Gerald Alston replaced the late Smith and the group moved to Columbia. In 1976 they struck pay dirt with the elegant platinum-selling ballad "Kiss and Say Goodbye", which topped both the pop and soul lists. Several more huge R&B hits preceded their uplifting 1980 gold record "Shining Star," and still more followed.

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Teena Marie: Love Songs (Best Of) (Sony 2000)
Teena Marie: La Dona (Cash Money 2004)

Produced by: Teena Marie
No white artist has sang R&B more convincingly than Teena Marie, whose big, robust vocals are so black-sounding that when she was starting out, listeners wondered if she was a light-skinned African-American. The singer/songwriter/producer was in her early 20s when, around 1977, she landed a job at Motown Records and met her mentor Rick James, who ended up doing all of the writing and producing for her 1979 debut album "Wild And Peaceful". "Love Songs" has 14 of the more romantic, urban-adult contemporary songs which Marie recorded from 1981 through 1990, including the big hits "Ooo La La La" and "If I Were a Bell". The classic "Portuguese Love" is missing though.
25 years after her debut she's back with La Dona. Confident as ever and in excellent voice, most of the material stands proudly next to her best work. It runs however a bit long and should probably been cut 20 mins. or so.

  Buy it on Amazon.com
Buy it on Amazon.com
 
Maxwell: Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite (Sony 1996)
Maxwell: Embrya (Sony 1998)

Produced by: Maxwell & Stuart Mathewman
Marvin Gaye of the 90's! Definitely two of the best soul albums of the 90's! The atmospheric, cool-breeze soundscape comes courtesy of Maxwell and Sade cohort Stuart Mathewman. His third album "Now", released 2001, is in my opinion not as good as the first two. Except for a great cover version of "This Woman's Work" by Kate Bush, the production and sound is far better than the songwriting.
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Curtis Mayfield: The Best Of (2-CD Set) (Curtom/Charly  2000)
Produced by: Various
Judged merely by his records alone, the man's legacy is enormous. As the leader of the Impressions, he recorded some of the finest soul vocal group music of the 60's. As a solo artist in the 70's, he helped pioneer funk, and helped introduce hard-hitting urban commentary into soul music. "Move On Up", "It's All Right", "People Get Ready", "Freddie's Dead" and "Superfly" are merely the most famous of his many hit records. He wrote most of his material, at a time when that was not the norm for soul performers. He was among the first, - if not the very first, - to speak openly about African-American pride and community struggle in his compositions. He was a key architect of Chicago soul, penning material and working on sessions by Windy City soulsters like Gene Chandler, Jerry Butler and Major Lance. Mayfield was also an excellent guitarist.
He left the Impressions to begin a solo career in 1970. His first few singles boasted a harder, more funk-driven sound; singles like "(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Gonna Go" found him confronting ghetto life with a realism that had rarely been heard on record. He really didn't hit his artistic or commercial stride as a solo artist until Superfly, his soundtrack to the 1972 blaxploitation film. Yet Mayfield's falsetto vocals, uplifting melodies, and fabulous funk-pop arrangements gave the material a graceful strength that few others could have achieved. 
On August 14, 1990, he became paralyzed from the neck down when a lighting rig fell on top of him at a concert in Brooklyn, NY. Curtis Mayfield died at the age of 57, 26. December 1999.

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Miracles: Collection (Motown/Spektrum 2002)
Miracles: Love Machine - The 70s Collection (Motown 2003)

Produced by: Freddie Perren
The 19 track "Collection" is a great overview of their post-Smokey Robinson recordings on Motown with Billy Griffin doing the lead vocals. The CD contains the complete 1975 best-selling "City of Angels" album incl. "My Name Is Michael", "Waldo Roderick DeHammersmith", and the pretty controversial "Ain't Nobody Straight in L. A.". Other great songs are "Do It Baby," "What Is a Heart Good For," and the super-classy "Don't Let It End".
I've always preferred Billy Griffin over Smokey Robinson, so if you are like me and just can't get enough, also get the 2003 "Love Machine". Some songs doubles, but together these two compilations contains most of the Miracles 70s work. Also check out Billy Griffin's 2006 offering Like Water.

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Modulations: It's Rough Out Here (Buddah 1975/Vivid Jap)
Produced by: 
Recording in Philadelphia, in the mid 70s, the Modulations worked with MFSB (Mother Father Sister Brother) who were the backbone of Gamble and Huff's "Philly Sound." Overall, the Modulations have a bit more grit to their sound than a lot of the other Philly Soul acts at the time. Great group that seems to fly under the radar for a lot of soul fans.

   
New York City: Soulful Road (Chelsea 1974/Sequel)
Produced by: Thom Bell
A quite obscure soul harmony group that released 2 albums in the early 70's on the Chelsea label. Their first offering "I'm Doing Fine Now" (1973) is probably more know because of the minor hits of the title track and "Make Me Twice The Man, - the latter also recorded by The Notations. I personally find their second and last effort "Soulful Road" much better. Both albums are incl. on "The Best Of New York City" CD avail. on Sequel Records.

   
O'Jays: Collectors' Items (PIR 1977)
O'Jays: The Essential (PIR/Sony 2005)

Produced by: Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff
Classic Philly Soul! "Collectors Items" is a great 14 track compilation, featuring the classic "Backstabbers", "For the Love of Money" and "I Love Music". Originally released as a 14 track double LP, this CD version was released in 1990. Although "Collectors' Items" is excellent, the one to have is the 2005 "The Essential O'Jays" from Sony. 16 remastered classics from the 70s with an excellent sound and tracklist. It should definitely have been a 2-CD set though! [More Philly Soul]

  Buy it on Amazon.comBuy it on Amazon.com  
Jeffrey Osborne: From the Soul (Koch 2005)
Produced by: Paul Brown
I've been a fan of Jeffrey Osborne since he fronted L.T.D. in the 70s with classics like "Love Ballad." Since then, he made his own mark as a solo artist with "On the Wings of Love," and "Stay With Me Tonight." On "From the Soul," Osborne covers classic tunes in his own silky-smooth style. Incl. are Aretha Franklin's "Till You Come Back To Me," Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready," Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." This compilation stands well alongside the recent cover releases from Michael McDonald and Hall & Oates, and should be welcomed into the collection of any classic R&B fan.

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Esther Phillips: Anthology (Kudu/Mercury/Soul Brother UK 2003)
Produced by: Creed Taylor, Wayne Henderson, Benny Golson, Harvey Mason
Although Esther Phillips is probably better know for doing blues and jazz material, and even though many of the session musicians are jazz players like the Brecker Brothers, David Sanborn and Steve Khan, this is pure R&B.

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L. J. Reynolds: Get To This (Motor City 2011)
Produced by: 
Former Dramatics' vocalist 2011 effort is absolutely fantastic! A great mix of 70s soul and new R&B. The opening title track "Come Get To This" (written by Marvin Gaye and from his Let's Get It On album 1973) is a killer with a great horn arrangement by real horns! Reynolds also does a great version of Player's AOR/WestCoast classic "Baby Come Back" from 1977.

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Sade: Diamond Life (Epic 1984)
Sade: Promise (Epic 1986)

Produced by: Robin Millar
Maybe not real soul, but nevertheless two great mellow jazz/soul/pop album. Contains the excellent "Smooth Operator" and "Sweetest Taboo". For more info, check my very own tribute to Helen FolaSADE Adu and her band.

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Jill Scott: Who Is Jill Scott? (Epic 2000)
Produced by: Grand Wizards, Andre Harris, Ed King
Mixing jazz, hip-hop, and classic soul, "Who Is Jill Scott?" sails on smooth, down-tempo beats and modest arrangements that highlight Scott's vivid, sometimes spoken-word lyrics and expressive voice. In an R&B landscape that often suffers from overproduction and too many sound-alike artists, "Who Is Jill Scott?" is a refreshingly honest release from a singer-songwriter who deserves to be heard.
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Soul Survivors: s/t (TSOP 1974)
Produced by: Gamble & Huff
Starting out in N.Y., the Ingui brothers formed Soul Survivors and released "Expressway to Your Heart" in the late 60's, which was Gamble & Huff's first crossover hit and brought their Philly Sound to to the mass market. Their self titled 1974 album was their last offering and contained the excellent "City Of Brotherly Love". Early Philly sound with some excellent keyboard playing by Neil Larsen. Jap CD only! [More Philly Soul]

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Spinners: The Very Best Of Vol.1 & 2 (Atlantic/Rhino 1993 & 1997)
Spinners: Chrome Collection (3 CD box set) (Atlantic/Rhino 2003)

Produced by: Thom Bell and others
The Spinners were rivaled only by the O'Jays as the greatest Philly soul group, and The Very Best of the Spinners offers a concentrated dose of sweet soul magic. It also shows the excellent work of Thom Bell, Philly soul's "other" great producer besides legendary Gamble & Huff. The Spinners' records were tastefully, elegantly romantic and mostly built around the magnetic leads of Philippe Wynne. Thom Bell's gorgeous production frames his voice with just the right amount of sweetness. Essential for anyone even remotely interested in '70s soul. Volume 2 rounds up the lesser-known hits that didn't make the Volume 1.
Still can't get enough lush soul? One of a kind - The Sublime Soul of the Spinners showcased on their first-ever boxed set (62 tracks on 3 CDs), a career-spanning collection featuring choice album cuts, previously unreleased tracks, and all the hits! Excellent hard-back 60-page digibook packed with photos and liner notes by Dionne Warwick, David Bowie and Elvis Costello.

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Buy it on Amazon.com
 
Stylistics: Ultimate Collection (Mercury UK 2005)
Produced by: Various
This double CD contains 36 tracks including all of The Stylistics UK and US singles hits as well as three of the four tracks of an EP that made the UK singles chart.

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Surface: 3 Deep (Columbia 1990)
Surface: Love Zone (Victor Japan 1998)

Produced by: David Conley & David Townsend
The '80s soft soul vocal trio's 3rd and 4th release. Excellent songs and crisp production. "The First Time" was the first single from the "3 Deep" album and went gold hitting #1 R&B and holding the #1 pop for two weeks in early 1991. The hits continued with "All I Want Is You", "Never Gonna Let You Down" and "You're the One". Their 1998 release Love Zone is a Japan release only and more of the same excellent "quiet storm" sound. (Beware of reggae group also called Surface).

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Tavares: Madam Butterfly (Capitol 1979)
Produced by: Bobby Martin
Produced by Bobby Martin - who was highly regarded in Philly Soul circles, "Madam Butterfly" is very Philly-sounding and not the disco usually associated with Tavares. Including highlights as "Straight From the Heart", "My Love Calls", and the major hit "Never Had a Love Like This Before". This is pure Northern Soul and working with Bobby Martin proved a wise decision indeed.

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V/A: Creme De La Creme - Philly Soul Classics & Rarities 1 & 2 (Warner UK 2002/05)
Two of the best compilations of 70s soul around. Both containing tracks from the mid 70s Atlantic and Warner Bro. Records and recorded in the mighty soul capitol of Philly! Both volumes are combining hit singles with lesser-known Philly gems -- tunes recorded as singles or obscure album tracks by artists who were working in the same Sigma scene as the bigger acts, but who never managed to crack the charts as much. Volume 2 goes even deeper and presents a range of rare singles for the first time on CD, alongside a well-chosen batch of overlooked album tracks.

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V/A: Dimitri from Paris - Cocktail Disco (BBE UK 2007)
This 22 track, double CD set is compiled by the king of Disco, Monsieur Dimitri from Paris, and contains a sub genre of disco music that in its heyday may have been referred to as a bit cheesy, -- or "Love Boat", hence the cover -- but if you like rich orchestrated Philly style soul/disco with a touch of Latin (puh!), check it out!

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V/A: Spirit Of Philadelphia 1 & 2 (Expansion 2002/06)
Two excellent compilations showcasing the 70's sound of Philadelphia beyond the walls of Philadelphia International Records. In other words; Philly sound not on PIR. Excellent liner notes by Ralph Tee. Read more about PIR...

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V/A: Strange Games & Things (BBE UK 2001)
V/A: Strange Games & Funky Things (BBE UK 2003)
V/A: Strange Funky Games & Things (BBE UK 2005)
V/A: Strange Games & Funky Things Vol.  5 (BBE UK 2010)

One of the best soul compilation series ever! Compiled by Peter Adarkwah, the series is filled with top-shelf rarities that represent the best of 70s rare soul/funk grooves. Most tracks have a nice moody mellow jazzy tip, with a special focus on tracks that have been used for hip hop samples.  Just about every cut's a winner, and the whole thing's a perfect blend of deep tracks that sound great together. On all volumes, the artist names are familiar, but the cuts are all pretty hard to find! Nearly every track has been sampled at some point -- so you'll recognize many of the beats and riffs -- but the tracks are also totally excellent, and hold up extremely well on their own as smooth modern soul classics.

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Buy it on Amazon.com
 
V/A: The Wants List Volume 1, 2 & 3 (Soul Brother UK 2003/05/07)
Every true music lover has a wants list -- a piece of paper containing long sought-after albums or songs you just gotta have! "The Wants List - Soulful Rare Grooves" vol. 1 and 2 includes some hard-to-find sweet mellow soul classics of the late '60s and early '70s that no doubt kept their owners on the hunt for years. Excellent! Wants List volume 3 will be out autumn 07.

   
V/A: You Better Believe It: Rare Soul Gems Volume 1 & 2 (Warner UK 2004/06)
If you like your soul music rare, then this is the one for you. Each volume with more than 20 70s soul gems from the vaults of Atco, Atlantic and Warner Bros. Great stuff!

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Leon Ware: Musical Massage (Motown 1976)
Produced by: Leon Ware
At last on CD! Originally released in 1976 and truly a masterpiece. With five bonus tracks, including a duet with Minnie Riperton, this is a must have for all serious soul freaks. Ware's voice is smooth and silky, much like Marvin Gaye, - and both Gaye and Bobby Womack does guest appearances. A little earlier the same year Motown released another classic - I Want You by Marvin Gaye - written, produced and arranged by .... Leon Ware!
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Lenny Williams: Ultimate Collection (MCA/Hip-O/Universal 2001)
Produced by: Various
With an easily recognizable voice and a great passionate approach to a song, Lenny used to be lead singer with Tower of Power in the early '70s. This compilation has 16 tracks, and except for "Don't Change Horses (In The Middle Of A Stream)" with TOP, all songs are from his solo albums. Again Hip-O/Universal have done a fine job putting it all together.

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Al Wilson: Count the Days (Roadshow 1979)
Produced by:  Allan Felder, Sam Brown III, T.G. Conway
Al Wilson grooves it beautifully here, and despite its 1979 release, this oozes mid 70s Philly with just a touch of disco here and there. 

   
Whispers: Bingo (Janus 1974)
Whispers: One For the Money (Soul Train 1976)
Whispers: Open Up Your Love (Soul Train 1977)
Whispers: Headlights (SOLAR 1978)

Produced by: Dick Griffey & The Whispers
In my opinion these are some of the Whispers' best work, with the 1974 Bingo as their all time best offering. Excellent vocal arrangements and harmony singing led by the very smooth voices of twin brothers Scotty & Walter Scott. Also check out In The Mood - a "best of ballads" by The Whispers. Most Whispers albums have been reissued (and remastered) by Castle Records (UK).
Also check out their 2006 "For Your Ears Only". Never mind the tacky homemade cover, this is The Whispers back in excellent form delivering what they do best; smooth love songs!
And the beat goes on in 2009. Check out their latest offering "Thankful". A gospel album in smooth harmony Whispers style!"

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Buy it on Amazon.com
 
Bill Withers: The Ultimate Bill Withers (Columbia Germany 2000)
Produced by: Various
This 2 CD set package is really superb! Including all the classics such as "Lovely Day", "Ain't no Sunshine", "Lean on Me" and "Just The Two Of Us" (with Grover Washington jr.). A must in every soul collection!

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Zulema: Ms. Z (Sussex 1973)
Singer and songwriter Zulema Cusseaux from Tampa, Florida, started out as a member of the Van McCoy produced group Faith, Hope & Charity. She also released several solo albums between 1972 and 1978, and her first two releases Zulema (1972) and Ms. Z (1973) -- both on Sussex Records -- are excellent stuff!
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