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

Soul - Released February 24, 2014 | 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 Although the song features plenty of outdated references to everything from Spiro Agnew and Jim Webb to The Beverly Hillbillies, the force of Scott-Heron's well-directed anger makes the song timeless.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

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

Soul - Released January 2, 2013 | Ace Records

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If ever there was a soul singer who rivaled Otis Redding's raw, deep emotional sensuality, it was James Carr, and the proof is in the pudding with You Got My Mind Messed Up. Carr was one of the last country-soul singers to approach any chart given to him as if it was a gift from God. Carr was Redding's rival in every respect if for no other reason than the release of this, his debut album recorded in 1966. The 12 songs here, many of them covered by other artists, are all soul classics merely by their having been sung and recorded by Carr. Among them is the Drew Baker/Dani McCormick smash "Pouring Water on a Drowning Man," George Jackson's "Coming Back to Me Baby," a handful of tracks by O.B. McLinton, including "Forgetting You" and the title track, and the Chips Moman/Dan Penn hit "Dark End of the Street." And while it's true that few have ever done bad versions of the song because of the phenomenal writing, there is only one definitive version, and that one belongs to Carr. In his version he sings from the territory of a heart that is already broken but enslaved both to his regret and his desire. This is a love so pure it can only have been illicit. When he gets to the beginning of the second verse, and intones "I know time is gonna take its toll," he's already at the end of his rope; he knows that desire that burns like this can only bring about ruin and disaster, and it is precisely since it cannot be avoided that his repentance is perhaps accepted by the powers that would try him and judge him. He holds the arrangement at bay, and unlike some versions, Carr keeps his composure, making it a true song of regret, remorse, and a love so forbidden yet so faithful that it is worth risking not only disgrace and destruction for, but also hell itself. As the guitar cascades down the fretboard staccato, he can see the dark end of the street and holds it as close to his heart as a sacred and secret memory. By the album's end with the title track, listeners hear the totality of the force of Memphis soul. With Steve Cropper's guitar filling the space in the background, Carr offers a chilling portrait of what would happen to him in the future. Again pleading with the beloved in a tone reminiscent of a church-singer hell, he's in the church of love. He pleads, admonishes, begs, and finally confirms that the end of this love is his insanity, which was a chilling prophecy given what happened to Carr some years later. This is one of theMemphis soul records of the mid-'60s, full of rough-hewn grace, passion, tenderness, and danger. A masterpiece. ~ Thom Jurek

Soul - Released September 24, 2012 | Ace Records

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Millie Jackson's debut is one of the freshest albums of her career, her style remarkably mature and the sound an infectious blend of '60s soul influences (from Motown to Stax to early Philly soul). Jackson's just as tough and aggressively honest here as she would be on her breakout, 1974's Caught Up, and songs like "I Ain't Giving Up" and "I Miss You Baby" are of the same high caliber. She injects the perfect measure of anger and genuine confusion into the hypocrisy fable "A Child of God (It's Hard to Believe)" (her first R&B hit) and has no trouble switching gears for the affectionate "My Man, a Sweet Man," with a driving bassline and handclaps making direct connections to the classic Motown sound. The biggest hit here was another love song, the swinging "Ask Me What You Want," her second R&B Top Ten entry. Even though it never came together quite like Caught Up, Jackson's first LP introduced a major talent to the R&B world. ~ John Bush

Soul - Released September 26, 2011 | Ace Records

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All 28 songs from Carr's 1964-1970 Goldwax singles are here, which is enough to make it a fair bid for a good best-of compilation, although it doesn't have everything he recorded. About half of the songs on this British import are not on the most well-known American CD compilation of Carr's work, The Essential James Carr, and those tracks are consistent with the level of his other Goldwax recordings, although they don't include anything on the level of "The Dark End of the Street" or "Pouring Water on a Drowning Man." This disc is particularly valuable for filling in some of his earliest 1964-1966 sides, which have a very slightly poppier and more up-tempo bent than his most esteemed songs. "That's What I Want to Know"'s groove is pretty Motown-ish, for instance, while "I Can't Make It" and "Only Fools Run Away" have Marvelettes-like chirping in the background. The 1970 funk update of "Row, Row Your Boat" isn't much to cheer about, though. There are plenty who will argue the point, but this doesn't quite live up to Carr's billing as the greatest '60s deep soul singer; Otis Redding (who Carr resembles in some respects) was better, and others had better and more imaginative material. It's good, certainly, and recommended to fans of artists like Redding who are looking for similar stuff that doesn't get played on the radio anymore. ~ Richie Unterberger

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