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 November 30, 1982 | Epic

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Exceptional sound - Hi-Res Audio
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
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Soul - Released April 12, 2013 | Epic - Legacy

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Indispensable JAZZ NEWS - Pitchfork: Best New Reissue
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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R&B/Soul - Released August 21, 2015 | Epic - Legacy

Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama - The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Reissue
In a way, the Isley Brothers have been taken for granted. Part of that is the group's unwitting doing because they were exceptionally steady. From 1966 through 1983, the Isleys placed at least one single on the Billboard R&B chart each year. They were always present, frequently at or near the top. For an extended period, they were among the most progressive groups, whether they were mixing gospel, soul, and rock, incorporating synthesizers without sacrificing the funk, covering pop hits and often surpassing them, or epitomizing quiet storm. When they retreated from the fore, they adapted with ease. Another factor in their undervalued status is that their vast discography has been reissued in chunks by various sources across the decades. The RCA Victor & T-Neck Album Masters: 1959-1983, released by the Sony catalog's Legacy division, is a corrective measure in the form of a compact 23-disc box set. It doesn't cover the Isleys' brief '60s stints with Wand, United Artists, and Tamla, but it is remarkably generous with dozens of bonus tracks -- mono versions, single edits, instrumentals, and so forth -- and LP-replica sleeves for each album. As an extra enticement for those who dutifully rounded up those late-'90s Legacy and early-2010s BBR reissues, there's Wild in Woodstock, a previously unreleased recording of the Go All the Way-era band performing at Bearsville Studios. Intended for release with overdubbed crowd noise that was thankfully never applied, the set alternates between blistering and gliding and deserves a separate physical issue outside the box. ~ Andy Kellman
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Soul - Released January 1, 2014 | Motown

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Songs in the Key of Life was Stevie Wonder's longest, most ambitious collection of songs, a two-LP (plus accompanying EP) set that -- just as the title promised -- touched on nearly every issue under the sun, and did it all with ambitious (even for him), wide-ranging arrangements and some of the best performances of Wonder's career. The opening "Love's in Need of Love Today" and "Have a Talk with God" are curiously subdued, but Stevie soon kicks into gear with "Village Ghetto Land," a fierce exposé of ghetto neglect set to a satirical Baroque synthesizer. Hot on its heels comes the torrid fusion jam "Contusion," a big, brassy hit tribute to the recently departed Duke Ellington in "Sir Duke," and (another hit, this one a Grammy winner as well) the bumping poem to his childhood, "I Wish." Though they didn't necessarily appear in order, Songs in the Key of Life contains nearly a full album on love and relationships, along with another full album on issues social and spiritual. Fans of the love album Talking Book can marvel that he sets the bar even higher here, with brilliant material like the tenderly cathartic and gloriously redemptive "Joy Inside My Tears," the two-part, smooth-and-rough "Ordinary Pain," the bitterly ironic "All Day Sucker," or another classic heartbreaker, "Summer Soft." Those inclined toward Stevie Wonder the social-issues artist had quite a few songs to focus on as well: "Black Man" was a Bicentennial school lesson on remembering the vastly different people who helped build America; "Pastime Paradise" examined the plight of those who live in the past and have little hope for the future; "Village Ghetto Land" brought listeners to a nightmare of urban wasteland; and "Saturn" found Stevie questioning his kinship with the rest of humanity and amusingly imagining paradise as a residency on a distant planet. If all this sounds overwhelming, it is; Stevie Wonder had talent to spare during the mid-'70s, and instead of letting the reserve trickle out during the rest of the decade, he let it all go with one massive burst. (His only subsequent record of the '70s was the similarly gargantuan but largely instrumental soundtrack Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants.) ~ John Bush
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Soul - Released January 1, 2014 | UNI - MOTOWN

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Hi-Res Audio
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Soul - Released January 1, 2014 | Motown

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Hi-Res Audio
After releasing two "head" records during 1970-71, Stevie Wonder expanded his compositional palette with 1972's Talking Book to include societal ills as well as tender love songs, and so recorded the first smash album of his career. What had been hinted at on the intriguing project Music of My Mind was here focused into a laser beam of tight songwriting, warm electronic arrangements, and ebullient performances -- altogether the most realistic vision of musical personality ever put to wax, beginning with a disarmingly simple love song, "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" (but of course, it's only the composition that's simple). Stevie's not always singing a tender ballad here -- in fact, he flits from contentment to mistrust to promise to heartbreak within the course of the first four songs -- but he never fails to render each song in the most vivid colors. In stark contrast to his early songs, which were clever but often relied on the Motown template of romantic metaphor, with Talking Book it became clear Stevie Wonder was beginning to speak his mind and use personal history for material (just as Marvin Gaye had with the social protest of 1971's What's Going On). The lyrics became less convoluted, while the emotional power gained in intensity. "You and I" and the glorious closer "I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)" subtly illustrate that the conception of love can be stronger than the reality, while "Tuesday Heartbreak" speaks simply but powerfully: "I wanna be with you when the nighttime comes / I wanna be with you till the daytime comes." Ironically, the biggest hit from Talking Book wasn't a love song at all; the funk landmark "Superstition" urges empowerment instead of hopelessness, set to a grooving beat that made it one of the biggest hits of his career. It's followed by "Big Brother," the first of his directly critical songs, excoriating politicians who posture to the underclass in order to gain the only thing they really need: votes. With Talking Book, Stevie also found a proper balance between making an album entirely by himself and benefiting from the talents of others. His wife Syreeta contributed two great lyrics, and Ray Parker, Jr. came by to record a guitar solo that brings together the lengthy jam "Maybe Your Baby." Two more guitar heroes, Jeff Beck and Buzzy Feton, appeared on "Lookin' for Another Pure Love," Beck's solo especially giving voice to the excruciating process of moving on from a broken relationship. Like no other Stevie Wonder LP before it, Talking Book is all of a piece, the first unified statement of his career. It's certainly an exercise in indulgence but, imitating life, it veers breathtakingly from love to heartbreak and back with barely a pause. ~ John Bush
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Soul - Released January 1, 2014 | Motown

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After brilliantly surveying the social, political, and spiritual landscape with What's Going On, Marvin Gaye turned to more intimate matters with Let's Get It On, a record unparalleled in its sheer sensuality and carnal energy. Always a sexually charged performer, Gaye's passions reach their boiling point on tracks like the magnificent title hit (a number one smash) and "You Sure Love to Ball"; silky and shimmering, the music is seductive in the most literal sense, its fluid grooves so perfectly designed for romance as to border on parody. With each performance laced with innuendo, each lyric a come-on, and each rhythm throbbing with lust, perhaps no other record has ever achieved the kind of sheer erotic force of Let's Get It On, and it remains the blueprint for all of the slow jams to follow decades later -- much copied, but never imitated. ~ Jason Ankeny
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Disco - Released September 30, 2013 | Rhino Atlantic

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Hi-Res Audio
Released in 1978, just as disco began to peak, C'est Chic and its pair of dancefloor anthems, "Le Freak" and "I Want Your Love," put Chic at the top of that dizzying peak. The right album at the right time, C'est Chic is essentially a rehash of Chic, the group's so-so self-titled debut from a year earlier. That first album also boasted a pair of floor-filling anthems, "Dance Dance Dance" and "Everybody Dance," and, like C'est Chic, it filled itself out with a mix of disco and ballads. So, essentially, C'est Chic does everything its predecessor did, except it does so masterfully: each side similarly gets its timeless floor-filler ("Le Freak," "I Want Your Love"), quiet storm come-down ("Savoir Faire," "At Last I Am Free"), feel-good album track ("Happy Man," "Sometimes You Win"), and moody album capper ("Chic Cheer," [RoviLink="MC"]"[Funny] Bone"[/RoviLink]). Producers Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers were quite a savvy pair and knew that disco was as much a formula as anything. As evidenced here, they definitely had their fingers on the pulse of the moment, and used their perceptive touch to craft one of the few truly great disco albums. In fact, you could even argue that C'est Chic very well may be the definitive disco album. After all, countless artists scored dancefloor hits, but few could deliver an album this solid, and nearly as few could deliver one this epochal as well. C'est Chic embodies everything wonderful and excessive about disco at its pixilated peak. It's anything but subtle with its at-the-disco dancefloor mania and after-the-disco bedroom balladry, and Edwards and Rodgers are anything but whimsical with their disco-ballad-disco album sequencing and pseudo-jet-set Euro poshness. Chic would follow C'est Chic with "Good Times," the group's crowning achievement, but never again would Edwards and Rodgers assemble an album as perfectly calculated as C'est Chic. ~ Jason Birchmeier
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Soul - Released October 1, 2002 | Rhino Atlantic

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Soul - Released January 1, 1970 | Polydor

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - The Qobuz Standard
This live outing from Brown's seminal 1970 J.B.'s lineup features Bootsy Collins, Clyde Stubblefield, Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker, Bobby Byrd, and many more. While it's a cut below Love Power Peace in documenting this lineup live, Brown and his band still smoke, tearing into extended versions of funk classics like "Sex Machine" (nearly 11 minutes), "Brother Rapp," "Give It Up or Turnit a Loose," and "Mother Popcorn," plus a healthy quotient of earlier soul material sprinkled in between. ~ Steve Huey
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Soul - Released January 1, 1973 | Universal Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - The Qobuz Standard
Originally released in 1973 as a sprawling two-LP set, The Payback was one of James Brown's most ambitious albums of the 1970s, and also one of his best, with Brown and his band (which in 1974 still included Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker, St. Clair Pinckney, Jimmy Nolen, and Jabo Starks) relentlessly exploring the outer possibilities of the James Brown groove. Stretching eight cuts out over the space of nearly 73 minutes, The Payback is long on extended rhythmic jamming, and by this time Brown and his band had become such a potent and nearly telepathic combination that the musicians were able pull out lengthy solos while still maintaining some of the most hypnotic funk to be found anywhere, and on the album's best songs -- the jazzy "Time Is Running Out Fast," the relentless "Shoot Your Shot," the tight-wound "Mind Power," and the bitter revenge fantasy of the title cut -- the tough, sinuous rhythms and the precise interplay between the players is nothing short of a wonder to behold. And even the album's lower-key cuts (such as the lovelorn "Doing the Best That I Can" and "Forever Suffering") sink their hooks into the listener and pull you in; quite simply, this is remarkable stuff, and even Brown's attempts at lyrical relevance (which were frankly getting a bit shaky at this point in his career) are firmly rooted enough to sound convincing. The Payback turned out to be one of James Brown's last inarguably great albums before he hit a long fallow streak in the mid- to late '70s, but no one listening to this set would ever imagine that this was the work of an artist (or a band) about to run out of gas. ~ Mark Deming
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Soul - Released February 8, 2011 | Rhino Atlantic

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Funk - Released August 23, 2013 | Epic - Legacy

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Reissue
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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
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Soul - Released December 5, 1995 | Rhino Atlantic

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Soul - Released January 1, 2011 | UNI - MOTOWN

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Reissue
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Soul - Released February 2, 2006 | Rhino Atlantic

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Soul - Released January 1, 2001 | Motown

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - The Qobuz Standard
What's Going On is not only Marvin Gaye's masterpiece, it's the most important and passionate record to come out of soul music, delivered by one of its finest voices, a man finally free to speak his mind and so move from R&B sex symbol to true recording artist. With What's Going On, Gaye meditated on what had happened to the American dream of the past -- as it related to urban decay, environmental woes, military turbulence, police brutality, unemployment, and poverty. These feelings had been bubbling up between 1967 and 1970, during which he felt increasingly caged by Motown's behind-the-times hit machine and restrained from expressing himself seriously through his music. Finally, late in 1970, Gaye decided to record a song that the Four Tops' Obie Benson had brought him, "What's Going On." When Berry Gordy decided not to issue the single, deeming it uncommercial, Gaye refused to record any more material until he relented. Confirmed by its tremendous commercial success in January 1971, he recorded the rest of the album over ten days in March, and Motown released it in late May. Besides cementing Marvin Gaye as one of the most important artists in pop music, What's Going On was far and away the best full-length to issue from the singles-dominated Motown factory, and arguably the best soul album of all time. Conceived as a statement from the viewpoint of a Vietnam veteran (Gaye's brother Frankie had returned from a three-year hitch in 1967), What's Going On isn't just the question of a baffled soldier returning home to a strange place, but a promise that listeners would be informed by what they heard (that missing question mark in the title certainly wasn't a typo). Instead of releasing listeners from their troubles, as so many of his singles had in the past, Gaye used the album to reflect on the climate of the early '70s, rife with civil unrest, drug abuse, abandoned children, and the spectre of riots in the near past. Alternately depressed and hopeful, angry and jubilant, Gaye saved the most sublime, deeply inspired performances of his career for "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)," "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)," and "Save the Children." The songs and performances, however, furnished only half of a revolution; little could've been accomplished with the Motown sound of previous Marvin Gaye hits like "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" and "Hitch Hike" or even "I Heard It Through the Grapevine." What's Going On, as he conceived and produced it, was like no other record heard before it: languid, dark, and jazzy, a series of relaxed grooves with a heavy bottom, filled by thick basslines along with bongos, conga, and other percussion. Fortunately, this aesthetic fit in perfectly with the style of longtime Motown session men like bassist James Jamerson and guitarist Joe Messina. When the Funk Brothers were, for once, allowed the opportunity to work in relaxed, open proceedings, they produced the best work of their careers (and indeed, they recognized its importance before any of the Motown executives). Bob Babbitt's playing on "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" functions as the low-end foundation but also its melodic hook, while an improvisatory jam by Eli Fountain on alto sax furnished the album's opening flourish. (Much credit goes to Gaye himself for seizing on these often tossed-off lines as precious; indeed, he spent more time down in the Snakepit than he did in the control room.) Just as he'd hoped it would be, What's Going On was Marvin Gaye's masterwork, the most perfect expression of an artist's hope, anger, and concern ever recorded. ~ John Bush
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Soul - Released January 1, 2011 | Stax

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Indispensable JAZZ NEWS
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Soul - Released January 1, 1972 | Motown

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - The Qobuz Standard
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Soul - Released January 1, 2001 | Motown

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - The Qobuz Standard
After brilliantly surveying the social, political, and spiritual landscape with What's Going On, Marvin Gaye turned to more intimate matters with Let's Get It On, a record unparalleled in its sheer sensuality and carnal energy. Always a sexually charged performer, Gaye's passions reach their boiling point on tracks like the magnificent title hit (a number one smash) and "You Sure Love to Ball"; silky and shimmering, the music is seductive in the most literal sense, its fluid grooves so perfectly designed for romance as to border on parody. With each performance laced with innuendo, each lyric a come-on, and each rhythm throbbing with lust, perhaps no other record has ever achieved the kind of sheer erotic force of Let's Get It On, and it remains the blueprint for all of the slow jams to follow decades later -- much copied, but never imitated. ~ Jason Ankeny