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 - Released June 15, 1976 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

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A good session, though the gimmicks are kicking in. ~ Ron Wynn
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R&B - Released March 14, 2014 | Arista - Legacy

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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 Although the song features plenty of outdated references to everything from Spiro Agnew and Jim Webb to The Beverly Hillbillies, the force of Scott-Heron's well-directed anger makes the song timeless.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
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R&B - Released January 1, 1981 | Motown

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Disappointed because Garden of Love wasn't as well received as it should have been, Rick James made a triumphant return to defiant, in-your-face funk with the triple-platinum Street Songs. This was not only his best-selling album ever, it was also his best period, and certainly the most exciting album released in 1981. The gloves came all the way off this time, and James is as loud and proud as ever on such arresting hits as "Super Freak," "Give It to Me Baby," and "Ghetto Life." Ballads aren't a high priority, but those he does offer (including his stunning duet with Teena Marie, "Fire and Desire") are first-rate. Even the world's most casual funksters shouldn't be without this pearl of an album. ~ Alex Henderson

Funk - Released August 23, 2013 | Epic - Legacy

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At the peak of their career, Sly & the Family Stone topped the charts with a Greatest Hits album -- in 1970, it was their first LP to crack the Billboard Top 200, peaking at number two; an argument could be made that it was the LP that cemented their stardom -- and over the years, they've been anthologized many times, almost each compilation worthwhile, but they've never been subjected to a comprehensive box set until Legacy's 2013 four-disc set Higher! (A 2007 box called The Collection doesn't count, as it just rounded up the expanded remasters of the group's Epic catalog.) Higher! succeeds because it performs a task many box sets do not: it tells a story. Placing an emphasis on narrative, sometimes achieved through rarities, does mean that there are some omissions here: "Fun," "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey," studio versions of "Stand" and "You Can Make It If You Try," "Just Like a Baby," "Babies Making Babies," and the 1975 version of "I Get High on You" are all absent, but as the box plays, they're not missed, as the story that is told is compelling. Higher! takes its time to get to Sly & the Family Stone's streak of hit singles -- the second disc is a quarter finished by the time "Dance to the Music," the group's first genuine hit, surfaces -- but it never drags. If anything, the early material -- including five sides Sly Stone, then performing under his given name Sylvester Stewart, recorded for Autumn in 1964 and 1965, plus the 1967 single for Loadstone, "I Ain't Got Nobody (For Real)"/"I Can't Turn You Loose" -- is instrumental in laying the foundation for what came later, as they reveal Sly's deep roots in R&B, doo wop, pop, and rock & roll, sounds he spliced together when he formed the Family Stone in 1967. Remarkably, the other rarities are equally illuminating, whether it's a clutch of terrific unreleased songs from 1967 (such stellar cuts as "What's That Got to Do with Me" and "Only One Way Out of This Mess" kick off the second disc), scorching live performances from the Isle of Wight in 1970, or the oddity "Small Fries," from the band's alter ego the French Fries, where Sly's sped-up, helium-addled voice is a clear predecessor to Prince's impish mischief. These are grace notes to the band's enormous legacy, a legacy that is clearly on display throughout Higher!, whether it's heard on exuberant hits that are pop staples to this day, rhythms that were heavily sampled during the golden age of hip-hop, or a vibrant blurring of boundaries that still sounds visionary. It's that depth of detail, combined with the masterful sequencing, that makes Higher! such a superb box set: it tells a familiar story in a fresh fashion. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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
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Soul - Released April 12, 2013 | Epic - Legacy

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As Shuggie Otis never capitalized on his newfound success in the '90s, somehow incapable of cobbling together a new record in the wake of the 2001 Luaka Bop reissue of Inspiration Information, it may be easy for partisans to overrate the 2013 Legacy pairing of that 1974 album with Wings of Love, a new collection of material Otis recorded between 1975 and 2000. That quarter-century span should be a tip-off that this is not a lean, coherent, purposeful album, but rather a collection of every listenable thing Otis completed over the course of 25 years, and in that sense, it's pretty good. Part of its appeal is that it is so thoroughly out of phase with the present that some songs seem to date either much earlier or much later than their original recording (for instance, the title track "Wings of Love" feels heavily inspired by Todd Rundgren's 1975 classic "Real Man," but apparently wasn't tracked until 1990). All of Wings of Love has a slightly woozy, trippy feel, something characteristic of its one-man-band origin, where keyboards and compressed microphones create a hazy tapestry, and part of the appeal of this music is how it feels like the late '70s and early '80s without belonging to its time; it certainly doesn't feel modern, but it can't be pinned to any specific year, which is appropriate as Otis essentially dropped out of sight and made this music in a vacuum. That isolation is certainly part of the appeal of Wings of Love, particularly because Otis isn't entirely unaware of what constituted a hit in 1987, so he overloads "Give Me a Chance" with drum machines and synthesizers that belong to the spring of that year, and part of the fun is hearing the disconnect between Otis' aspirations and what made for a hit in 1987, or how "Give Me Chance" isn't that far removed from 1977's tinny, pulsating "Don't You Run Away." Both of these are good songs and there are other good moments here, some sounding quite different than expected (the overloaded Hendrixian guitar of "Fireball of Love"), but the fact that the 1977 and 1987 tracks do not have a great distance in either their production or sensibility doesn't speak to a unique vision, it illustrates how far into his own world Otis was. And while that's an interesting place to visit, Wings of Love doesn't speak to a misunderstood genius; it's the sound an eccentric who was able to run wild for years on end, never caring about whether his music would be heard. In theory, that's fascinating. In practice, it's generally a curiosity. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Soul - Released July 15, 2008 | Rhino Atlantic

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Otis Redding's third album, and his first fully realized album, presents his talent unfettered, his direction clear, and his confidence emboldened, with fully half the songs representing a reach that extended his musical grasp. More than a quarter of this album is given over to Redding's versions of songs by Sam Cooke, his idol, who had died the previous December, and all three are worth owning and hearing. Two of them, "A Change Is Gonna Come" and "Shake," are every bit as essential as any soul recordings ever made, and while they (and much of this album) have reappeared on several anthologies, it's useful to hear the songs from those sessions juxtaposed with each other, and with "Wonderful World," which is seldom compiled elsewhere. Also featured are Redding's spellbinding renditions of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (a song epitomizing the fully formed Stax/Volt sound and which Mick Jagger and Keith Richards originally wrote in tribute to and imitation of Redding's style), "My Girl," and "You Don't Miss Your Water." "Respect" and "I've Been Loving You Too Long," two originals that were to loom large in his career, are here as well; the former became vastly popular in the hands of Aretha Franklin and the latter was an instant soul classic. Among the seldom-cited jewels here is a rendition of B.B. King's "Rock Me Baby" that has the singer sharing the spotlight with Steve Cropper, his playing alternately elegant and fiery, with Wayne Jackson and Gene "Bowlegs" Miller's trumpets and Andrew Love's and Floyd Newman's saxes providing the backing. Redding's powerful, remarkable singing throughout makes Otis Blue gritty, rich, and achingly alive, and an essential listening experience. ~ Bruce Eder

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
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Soul - Released November 19, 1996 | Rhino Atlantic

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Soul - Released January 1, 2012 | UNI - MOTOWN

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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
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Soul - Released September 18, 2012 | Alligator Records

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Probably the best of all the many albums Longhair waxed during his comeback. A tremendously tight combo featuring three horns and Dr. John on guitar delightfully back the Professor every step of the way as he recasts Solomon Burke's "Cry to Me" and Fats Domino's "Whole Lotta Loving" in his own indelible image and roars, yodels, and whistles out wonderful remakes of his own oldies "Big Chief" and "Bald Head." ~ Bill Dahl
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R&B/Soul - Released September 14, 2012 | Epic - Legacy

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R&B/Soul - Released September 14, 2012 | Epic - Legacy

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The downside to a success like Thriller is that it's nearly impossible to follow, but Michael Jackson approached Bad much the same way he approached Thriller -- take the basic formula of the predecessor, expand it slightly, and move it outward. This meant that he moved deeper into hard rock, deeper into schmaltzy adult contemporary, deeper into hard dance -- essentially taking each portion of Thriller to an extreme, while increasing the quotient of immaculate studiocraft. He wound up with a sleeker, slicker Thriller, which isn't a bad thing, but it's not a rousing success, either. For one thing, the material just isn't as good. Look at the singles: only three can stand alongside album tracks from its predecessor ("Bad," "The Way You Make Me Feel," "I Just Can't Stop Loving You"), another is simply OK ("Smooth Criminal"), with the other two showcasing Jackson at his worst (the saccharine "Man in the Mirror," the misogynistic "Dirty Diana"). Then, there are the album tracks themselves, something that virtually didn't exist on Thriller but bog down Bad not just because they're bad, but because they reveal that Jackson's state of the art is not hip. And they constitute a near-fatal dead spot on the record -- songs three through six, from "Speed Demon" to "Another Part of Me," a sequence that's utterly faceless, lacking memorable hooks and melodies, even when Stevie Wonder steps in for "Just Good Friends," relying on nothing but studiocraft. Part of the joy of Off the Wall and Thriller was that craft was enhanced with tremendous songs, performances, and fresh, vivacious beats. For this dreadful stretch, everything is mechanical, and while the album rebounds with songs that prove mechanical can be tolerable if delivered with hooks and panache, it still makes Bad feel like an artifact of its time instead a piece of music that transcends it. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Soul - Released February 2, 2006 | Rhino Atlantic

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Soul - Released February 8, 2011 | Rhino Atlantic

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Funk - Released July 17, 2012 | Cherry Red Records

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Like Tom Browne and Lenny White/Twennynine, Bernard Wright was part of Jamaica, Queens' R&B/funk scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s, which gave us such major hits as Twennynine's "Peanut Butter" and Browne's "Funkin' for Jamaica." Browne and White were both talented jazz musicians, but R&B/funk was their main focus at that time. Similarly, keyboardist/pianist Wright occasionally flirts with instrumental jazz on his debut album, 'Nard, but pays a lot more attention to vocal-oriented soul and funk. The only instrumentals on this out-of-print LP are the jazz-funk smoker "Firebolt Hustle," the Rodney Franklin-ish "Bread Sandwiches," and a relaxed interpretation of Miles Davis' "Solar," which finds Wright forming an acoustic piano trio with bassist Buster Williams and drummer Roy Haynes. Otherwise, this is an R&B album that is defined by such impressive funk as "Spinnin'," "Master Rocker," and the goofy but wildly infectious "Haboglabotribin'." Recorded when the keyboardist/pianist was only 16, 'Nard was expected to be a big hit, but surprisingly, didn't fare as well as albums by Browne and White. ~ Alex Henderson
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Soul - Released December 5, 1995 | Rhino Atlantic

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Soul - Released December 21, 1993 | Rhino Atlantic

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