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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R&B/Soul - Released April 29, 2014 | Epic

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Wearing skintight pants, black leather and brandishing a Bowie knife on the LP cover, Nona Hendryx announces her intentions loudly and clearly on her debut record. At the time, this record was unpromotable (hell, it would be today), mainly because the record company and radio stations didn't know what to do with a huge-voiced African-American woman who was comfortable and capable of singing hard rock as well as soul music. So, as usual, they turned their backs on the record and it disappeared almost as quickly as it was released. Which is a shame, because it's a nasty, relentless chunk of hard-edged rock'n'soul that was just a bit ahead of its time. Long out of print, but worth searching for. ~ John Dougan
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Funk - Released April 10, 1989 | Epic

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James Mtume's band Mtume hit its commercial and creative peak in 1983, when Juicy Fruit was released. The infectious, mildly risqué title song -- which contains the controversial lyrics "I'll be your lollipop/You can lick me everywhere" -- soared to number one on Billboard's R&B singles chart and ended up being sampled by quite a few hip-hoppers, including the late Notorious B.I.G. (who used the infectious gem on his 1994 hit "Juicy"). Some of the people who heard the "Juicy Fruit" single on the radio back in 1983 bought the single but not the album, which is a shame because the other tracks are also excellent. In fact, many of Mtume's hardcore fans agree that Juicy Fruit is the band's most essential album. This LP came at a time when funk was becoming increasingly technology-minded. Horn-driven funk bands were going out of style, and funksters were using a lot more keyboards and synthesizers. Juicy Fruit reflects that evolution; although not totally electronic, funk/urban pearls like "Hips" and "Ready for Your Love" are very keyboard-minded. Only one horn player is employed on this release: jazz saxophonist Gary Bartz, who did his share of R&B sessions in the late '70s and early '80s but eventually returned to being a full-time jazz improviser. Throughout Juicy Fruit, James Mtume takes a very hands-on approach -- in addition to producing the album and co-writing much of the material, he plays keyboards and provides some of the lead vocals (along with the expressive, big-voiced Tawatha Agee). Juicy Fruit isn't the only worthwhile album that James Mtume's band came out with in the '80s; as a rule, his '80s output was solid. But if you must limit yourself to one Mtume release, Juicy Fruit would be the best choice. ~ Alex Henderson
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R&B/Soul - Released December 28, 1988 | Epic

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R&B/Soul - Released September 16, 1988 | Epic

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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R&B/Soul - Released July 4, 1983 | Epic

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Michael Jackson had recorded solo prior to the release of Off the Wall in 1979, but this was his breakthrough, the album that established him as an artist of astonishing talent and a bright star in his own right. This was a visionary album, a record that found a way to break disco wide open into a new world where the beat was undeniable, but not the primary focus -- it was part of a colorful tapestry of lush ballads and strings, smooth soul and pop, soft rock, and alluring funk. Its roots hearken back to the Jacksons' huge mid-'70s hit "Dancing Machine," but this is an enormously fresh record, one that remains vibrant and giddily exciting years after its release. This is certainly due to Jackson's emergence as a blindingly gifted vocalist, equally skilled with overwrought ballads as "She's Out of My Life" as driving dancefloor shakers as "Working Day and Night" and "Get on the Floor," where his asides are as gripping as his delivery on the verses. It's also due to the brilliant songwriting, an intoxicating blend of strong melodies, rhythmic hooks, and indelible construction. Most of all, its success is due to the sound constructed by Jackson and producer Quincy Jones, a dazzling array of disco beats, funk guitars, clean mainstream pop, and unashamed (and therefore affecting) schmaltz that is utterly thrilling in its utter joy. This is highly professional, highly crafted music, and its details are evident, but the overall effect is nothing but pure pleasure. Jackson and Jones expanded this approach on the blockbuster Thriller, often with equally stunning results, but they never bettered it. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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R&B/Soul - Released November 30, 1982 | Epic

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Off the Wall was a massive success, spawning four Top Ten hits (two of them number ones), but nothing could have prepared Michael Jackson for Thriller. Nobody could have prepared anybody for the success of Thriller, since the magnitude of its success was simply unimaginable -- an album that sold 40 million copies in its initial chart run, with seven of its nine tracks reaching the Top Ten (for the record, the terrific "Baby Be Mine" and the pretty good ballad "The Lady in My Life" are not like the others). This was a record that had something for everybody, building on the basic blueprint of Off the Wall by adding harder funk, hard rock, softer ballads, and smoother soul -- expanding the approach to have something for every audience. That alone would have given the album a good shot at a huge audience, but it also arrived precisely when MTV was reaching its ascendancy, and Jackson helped the network by being not just its first superstar, but first black star as much as the network helped him. This all would have made it a success (and its success, in turn, served as a new standard for success), but it stayed on the charts, turning out singles, for nearly two years because it was really, really good. True, it wasn't as tight as Off the Wall -- and the ridiculous, late-night house-of-horrors title track is the prime culprit, arriving in the middle of the record and sucking out its momentum -- but those one or two cuts don't detract from a phenomenal set of music. It's calculated, to be sure, but the chutzpah of those calculations (before this, nobody would even have thought to bring in metal virtuoso Eddie Van Halen to play on a disco cut) is outdone by their success. This is where a song as gentle and lovely as "Human Nature" coexists comfortably with the tough, scared "Beat It," the sweet schmaltz of the Paul McCartney duet "The Girl Is Mine," and the frizzy funk of "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)." And, although this is an undeniably fun record, the paranoia is already creeping in, manifesting itself in the record's two best songs: "Billie Jean," where a woman claims Michael is the father of her child, and the delirious "Wanna Be Startin' Something," the freshest funk on the album, but the most claustrophobic, scariest track Jackson ever recorded. These give the record its anchor and are part of the reason why the record is more than just a phenomenon. The other reason, of course, is that much of this is just simply great music. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine