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Qobuz’s experts gather all the essentials of each genre. These albums have marked music history and become major landmarks.

With the Ideal Discography you (re)discover legendary recordings, all whilst building on your musical knowledge.

Albums

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Soul - Released April 29, 2013 | Ace Records

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When Lonnie Liston Smith left the Miles Davis band in 1974 for a solo career, he was, like so many of his fellow alumni, embarking on a musical odyssey. For a committed fusioneer, he had no idea at the time that he was about to enter an abyss that it would take him the better part of two decades to return from. Looking back upon his catalog from the period, this is the only record that stands out -- not only from his own work, but also from every sense of the word: It is fully a jazz album, and a completely funky soul-jazz disc as well. Of the seven compositions here, six are by Smith, and the lone cover is of the Horace Silver classic, "Peace." The lineup includes bassist Cecil McBee, soprano saxophonist David Hubbard, tenor saxophonist Donald Smith (who doubles on flute), drummer Art Gore, and percussionists Lawrence Killian, Michael Carvin, and Leopoldo. Smith plays both piano and electric keyboards and keeps his compositions on the jazzy side -- breezy, open, and full of groove playing that occasionally falls over to the funk side of the fence. It's obvious, on this album at least, that Smith was not completely comfortable with Miles' reliance on hard rock in his own mix. Summery and loose in feel, airy and free with its in-the-cut beats and stellar piano fills, Expansions prefigures a number of the "smooth jazz" greats here, without the studio slickness and turgid lack of imagination. The disc opens with the title track, with one of two vocals on the LP by Donald Smith (the other is the Silver tune). It's typical "peace and love and we've got to work together" stuff from the mid-'70s, but it's rendered soulfully and deeply without artifice. "Desert Nights" takes a loose Detroit jazz piano groove and layers flute and percussion over the top, making it irresistibly sensual and silky. It's fleshed out to the bursting point with Smith's piano; he plays a lush solo for the bridge and fills it to the brim with luxuriant tones from the middle register. "Summer Days" and "Voodoo Woman" are where the electric keyboards make their first appearance, but only as instruments capable of carrying the groove to the melody quickly, unobtrusively, and with a slinky grace that is infectious. The mixed bag/light-handed approach suits Smith so well here that it's a wonder he tried to hammer home the funk and disco on later releases so relentlessly. The music on Expansions is timeless soul-jazz, perfect in every era. Of all the fusion records of this type released in the mid-'70s, Expansions provided smoother jazzers and electronica's sampling wizards with more material that Smith could ever have anticipated. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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R&B - Released August 5, 2011 | Ace Records

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He looked like a young, pimped-out Eddie Murphy and sang like a somewhat deranged disciple of Al Green, but that was just part of the reason a small but fervent cult of '70s soul aficionados considers Bay Area character Darondo one of the great lost artists of his generation. His story, which includes being a sharp (and young) real estate businessman, railroad electrician, well-known TV talk show host, world traveler, and even an experienced chess player, is rightly the stuff of legend. It's detailed by historian Alec Palao in the comprehensive book that accompanies this 16-track set of recently found songs from Darondo's short heyday. Only a few, including "Didn't I," a regional West Coast hit, have been previously released, the rest were thought lost to time due to the usual shady label shenanigans that are also explained in the notes. Even though these tunes are not totally finished, they are far from raw and some include backing vocals, harmonica, horns, flute, and strings to flesh out the basic rhythm tracks. The music, recorded in 1973-1974 and intended for the Music City imprint, is your basic Southern-tinged funk and soul, but it's Darondo's loose, often lascivious, and always committed vocals that push this from being pretty good to pretty great. He grunts like James Brown, shifts to falsetto when the energy calls for it (as on the tough "Gimme Some"), and generally leads the primarily unnamed batch of musicians through their paces with a sharp sense of dynamics. Some of Darondo's tunes have surprisingly turned up in the soundtracks to a handful of late-2000s television shows. He even performed at 2008's SXSW festival and 2012's Bonnaroo, further whetting soul fan's appetites for this collection and tentatively getting back to live shows. Based on his gutsy and sometimes slightly unhinged vocals on the stomping blues of "I'm Lonely," this is a treat for soul history fans and, if not quite essential listening, a key piece of R&B history that places Darondo as one of the many could-have-been greats of his generation. © Hal Horowitz /TiVo
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Soul - Released January 1, 1974 | Ace Records

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Taking the drama of a love triangle to logical extremes, Millie Jackson's Caught Up turns the pitfalls of tainted love into the basis for a concept album (the seeds for soul music's explicit treatment of the topic having been planted by James Carr's "Dark End of the Street"). While the "other woman's" view is taken up initially on cuts like the R&B hit "If Loving You Is Wrong I Don't Want to Be Right," the wife's plight is covered on the second half of the disc with revealing titles like "It's All Over but the Shouting." Jackson also delivers some of her patented racy commentary on the appropriately named "The Rap," while showing equal vigor in the album's wealth of fine vocal performances, including an impressive cover of Bobby Womack's "I'm Through Trying to Prove My Love to You." Caught Up's standout track, though, is the version of Bobby Goldsboro's "Summer" that closes the record. Seemingly out of sync with the overriding concept, the song touches upon a girl's loss of innocence to an older man. One soon realizes, though, that beyond sexual awakening, Jackson is really emphasizing the point of no return: After the epiphany, one is sent hurdling toward the power struggles and politics of adult relations, including, potentially, the moral crossroads of infidelity. Luckily, as soon as your mind overloads from pop semiotics, the in-the-pocket grooves supplied by the Muscle Shoals Swampers provides the needed salve. Jackson shows both brains and soul on this fine release, creating what might be the only concept album one can dance and drink to. © Stephen Cook /TiVo
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Soul - Released January 1, 1971 | Ace Records

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Gil Scott-Heron's 1971 album Pieces of a Man set a standard for vocal artistry and political awareness that few musicians will ever match. His unique proto-rap vocal style influenced a generation of hip-hop artists, and nowhere is his style more powerful than on the classic "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." Even though the media -- the very entity attacked in this song -- has used, reused, and recontextualized the song and its title so many times, the message is so strong that it has become almost impossible to co-opt. Musically, the track created a formula that modern hip-hop would follow for years to come: bare-bones arrangements featuring pounding basslines and stripped-down drumbeats. Although the song features plenty of outdated references to everything from Spiro Agnew and Jim Webb to The Beverly Hillbillies, the force of Scott-Heron's well-directed anger makes the song timeless. More than just a spoken word poet, Scott-Heron was also a uniquely gifted vocalist. On tracks like the reflective "I Think I'll Call It Morning" and the title track, Scott-Heron's voice is complemented perfectly by the soulful keyboards of Brian Jackson. On "Lady Day and John Coltrane," he not only celebrates jazz legends of the past in his words but in his vocal performance, one that is filled with enough soul and innovation to make Coltrane and Billie Holiday nod their heads in approval. More than three decades after its release, Pieces of a Man is just as -- if not more -- powerful and influential today as it was the day it was released. © Jon Azpiri /TiVo