Albums

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R&B - Released March 3, 2017 | Sony Music UK

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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R&B - Released November 13, 2015 | Stax

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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R&B - Released January 1, 1977 | UNI - MOTOWN

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R&B - Released January 1, 2002 | UNI - MOTOWN

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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R&B - Released January 1, 1981 | Motown

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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R&B - Released March 15, 1974 | UNI - MOTOWN

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Pure Smokey consolidates Smokey Robinson’s progressions on Smokey, retaining the adventurous maturity of subject matter -- in particular, Robinson remains fixated on family, paying tribute to the sister who raised him on “It’s Her Turn to Live,” noting the passing generations on “She’s Only a Baby Herself,” and expressing “The Love Between Me and My Kids” -- but moving firmly into the present with his music. Apart from the closing “A Tattoo,” which was co-produced by Willie Hutch, Pure Smokey is helmed by Smokey himself and he creates a seamless blend of smoothed-out disco and gorgeous soft soul, the former firmly within the commercial realm of 1974 and the latter creating the sound he would coin Quiet Storm on his next LP. Here, Smokey favors lively beats over slow sways -- even the midtempo numbers carry a bounce to their rhythm -- yet these insistent, danceable rhythms convey an element of seduction thanks to Smokey’s velvet delivery, a smoothness that’s undeniable in his vocals and arrangements. So smooth is Pure Smokey that it’s easy to overlook its subtle innovations in subject and music, but that’s what makes it a rich, enduring LP: it goes down easy but pays back greater dividends upon close listening. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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R&B - Released June 15, 1976 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

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

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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R&B - Released January 1, 1981 | Motown

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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
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R&B - Released January 1, 1964 | Abkco Music & Records, Inc.

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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R&B - Released January 1, 2011 | Concord Records, Inc.

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography

R&B - Released August 5, 2011 | Ace Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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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
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R&B - Released July 14, 2009 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Released in 1981, Breakin' Away is not only a great follow-up to This Time, it all but perfected the effort. With an amazing batch of songs, producer/artist chemistry, and top-level players, Breakin' Away became the standard bearer of the L.A. pop and R&B sound. "Closer to Your Love" comes off as a tougher, more confident version of the songs from the previous album. However, in short order, Breakin' Away assumes its own identity with brilliant results. Everything works so well here that the hit, the pleasing "We're in This Love Together," comes off as the weak link. "Easy," with its gorgeous and subtle Latin flourishes, has Jarreau's purposeful delivery coming off oddly poignant in its joy and beauty. The bittersweet "My Old Friend" has him giving a charming and understated reading with gorgeous synth signatures that speak volumes. Most of Breakin' Away has Jarreau in great spirits and giving one great performance after another, like the powerful and melody-rich title song. Like his best albums, this gives Jarreau plenty of room to exercise his chops. He struts through the funky and elegant "Roof Garden," and on the impressive "(Round, Round, Round) Blue Rondo a la Turk" he offers great scats and whimsical lyrics. For the final track, Jarreau brings new life to "Teach Me Tonight" and it has a sweeping, dreamy arrangement. Produced by Jay Graydon, Breakin' Away is a great album and informed a lot of Jarreau's subsequent efforts. ~ Jason Elias
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Guy

R&B - Released January 1, 1988 | Geffen*

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
One of the most seminal and influential releases of late '80s, Guy's self-titled debut album did more than its part to popularize new jack swing, a style that would soon become inescapable on urban contemporary radio. Teddy Riley didn't actually invent new jack swing with Guy -- he'd already gotten the ball rolling on Keith Sweat's 1987 debut Make It Last Forever -- but this album did more than any other to make it so incredibly popular in the R&B world. With their tough blend of hip-hop, R&B, and Gap Band-influenced funk, hits like "Groove Me" and "Teddy's Jam" defined new jack swing and served as the blueprint for countless new jack recordings in the late '80s and early to mid-'90s. One shameless Guy clone after another would pop up on urban radio, the vast majority of whom weren't even a fraction as inventive as Riley's distinctive trio. For anyone with even a casual interest in new jack, this CD is absolutely essential. [MCA issued a two-disc edition of the album in 2007.] ~ Alex Henderson
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R&B - Released January 1, 1986 | Island Mercury

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Many of the funk bands that were big in the 1970s had a hard time surviving in the 1980s, especially if they were horn bands. Having a killer horn section was something that a lot of 1970s funk outfits prided themselves on, and it was no fun when, in the 1980s, they were told that their horns sound dated and that urban contemporary audiences only wanted to hear synthesizers, sequencers, and drum machines. But Cameo, unlike many funk bands that emerged in the late '70s, really thrived in the 1980s. Lead singer/producer Larry Blackmon insisted on changing with the times, and he did so by making Cameo more high-tech and seeing to it that albums like 1985's Single Life and 1986's Word Up! were relevant to the urban contemporary and hip-hop scenes. Nonetheless, Cameo still sounded like Cameo; Word Up!, in fact, is one of its best albums. The wildly infectious title song was a major hit, and Cameo is equally captivating on other funk treasures that include "Fast, Fierce and Funny," "Back and Forth," and "Candy." To the young urban contemporary and hip-hop fans who bought Word Up! in 1986, Cameo's funk was fresh and cutting edge; and at the same time, slightly older fans that Cameo had won over in the late '70s were still buying its records. Both commercially and creatively, Word Up! was a major triumph for Cameo. ~ Alex Henderson
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R&B - Released August 24, 1982 | Warner Bros.

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Essentially a side project for Prince in the wake of his tour with Rick James in support of Dirty Mind (1980), the Time made their self-titled album debut in 1981, a few months before the release of Controversy. The band's lineup is listed as Morris Day (vocals), Jesse Johnson (guitar), Terry Lewis (bass), Jimmy Jam (keyboards), Monte Moir (keyboards), and Jellybean Johnson (drums) -- all from the same Minneapolis music scene as Prince -- though reportedly all the music heard on The Time was performed by Prince with the exception of the vocals and a couple synthesizer solos. Moreover, Prince wrote all but one of the songs. None of this information is evident in the liner notes, however (at least not on the initial edition), as the only sign of Prince's involvement is a production credit for Jamie Starr, one of his pseudonyms. The origin of the Time -- and subsequently Vanity 6 -- came about because Prince was a prolific artist and his record label, Warner Brothers, recognizing this, gave him its contractual blessing to create side projects. This worked out well for Prince since he was able to release music in addition to his proper solo recordings, and he would have himself an opening band for his tours. The Time may have not written or performed the music on their self-titled debut, but they were fully capable of performing it live on-stage as Prince's opening act. Far from a bunch of stage actors, the Time was actually a talented bunch: Morris Day would prove himself a charismatic frontman and had previously co-written "Partyup" for Dirty Mind; Jesse Johnson would develop as a virtuosic guitarist; and most accomplished of all, Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam would become a first-rate production duo, helming Janet Jackson's Control in 1986, among many other projects. As for the album itself, The Time is short on material, featuring only six songs, a couple of them quite slight, but there are a few truly fantastic songs here on a par with Prince's best work of the era, namely "Get It Up," "Cool," and "The Stick," all extended synth-funk jams in the eight-to-ten-minute range. Successive albums by the Time would be more typical of the band itself, yet The Time is no less noteworthy for the lack of the band's involvement; in fact, this debut release is especially noteworthy for Prince fans enamored of his Dirty Mind-era output, for the music here feels like a session of outtakes as sung by Morris Day. ~ Jason Birchmeier
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R&B - Released January 1, 2007 | Geffen

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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R&B - Released March 25, 1986 | Warner Bros.

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R&B - Released June 19, 2007 | Rhino Atlantic

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
For their fourth Atlantic Records outing, the Spinners -- Henry Fambrough (baritone vocal), Billy Henderson (tenor vocal), Pervis Jackson (bass vocal), Bobbie Smith (tenor vocal) and Philippe Wynne (tenor vocal) -- cook up another sizable serving of Philly Soul under the care of producer/arranger Thom Bell. Following on the heels of three sequential gold records, it is not particularly surprising that they would continue in the same vein. The danceable R&B grooves -- especially the undeniably memorable "They Just Can't Stop It (The Games People Play)" -- not to mention the soulful slow jams, were ultimately a factor in making Pick of the Litter (1975) the Spinners' most successful long-player. Although the entire affair clocks in at just over half-an-hour, they pack a great deal into the effort, commencing with the dynamic mid-tempo "Honest I Do." The four-on-the-floor tempo and compact string arrangement are part and parcel of what made their sound so instantly discernible among concurrent copycat combos. They likewise had Wynne's versatile vocals in their arsenal, which was no doubt a significant component in their second 7" side, the compelling "Love or Leave." Instrumentally, the distinctive distorted guitar and refined brass accompaniment are all courtesy of Bell's singular musical vision, and faultlessly executed by the equally unmistakable MFSB Orchestra. "All That Glitters Ain't Gold" is a catchy number sporting a brisk propelling rhythm and score foreshadowing Bell's work with Elton John on "Mama Can't Buy You Love." The batch of ballads on Pick of the Litter are proportionately excellent as well, highlighted by Dionne Warwick's second guest appearance. Fambrough's debut as a solo lead demonstrates a gentle and supple intonation, perfectly matched to Warwick's agile and affective style. The album's primary focus track was the aforementioned "They Just Can't Stop It (The Games People Play)." The slightly, albeit judiciously edited version became a crossover smash, landing in the upper reaches of the Pop Singles survey and topping the R&B countdown in July of 1975. Trading vocals with Wynne and Jackson -- whose resonant "12:45" interjection became a hallmark of the song -- is backing session singer Barbara Ingram. Because the group was touring at the time, Fambrough was unavailable to put the finishing touches on the recording. Bell was under the gun to complete the production, so he chose Ingram to step in, and in doing so lent a whole new dimension to the lyrical banter. Those seeking a thoroughly solid effort Philly Soul are encouraged to spin the appropriately named Pick of the Litter. ~ Lindsay Planer
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R&B - Released January 1, 2007 | Capitol Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography

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