Albums

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R&B - Released January 1, 2013 | Blue Note Records

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Back in 1985, Aaron Neville offered fans a glimpse of his love of doo wop with the EP Orchid in the Storm. Over a quarter-century later, he returns to it on My True Story. Doo wop pre-dates rock & roll. Its reliance on the human voice in group harmony communicates not only melody but rhythm, and influenced the sounds of Motown, Stax, and early rock & roll. Even Frank Zappa claimed it as a prime influence. Co-produced by Keith Richards and Blue Note label boss Don Was, the dozen tunes here make prime use of Neville's voice, placing his high, smooth, vulnerable tenor way up front; he is backed by vintage-era doo wop singers and an all-star band that includes Richards and Greg Leisz on guitars, Benmont Tench on keyboards, bassist Tony Scherr, and drummer George R. Receli. Lenny Pickett helps out on horns and winds on a number of tracks as well. The production is clean, the musical backing used more as texture and color than as real support -- Neville and his vocalists offer all the impetus needed to pull this off (indeed one wonders what this set might have sounded like a cappella). The tunes are all classics. Standouts include Lieber & Stoller's "Ruby Baby," a medley of Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman's "This Magic Moment" and "True Love," Hank Ballard's "Work with Me Annie" (featuring a guest appearance from Art Neville on B-3), Sylvester Bradford's and Al Lewis' "Tears on My Pillow," and Curtis Mayfield's "Gypsy Woman." The latter marries doo wop to early Chicago soul, and Neville celebrates this in his reading. "Be My Baby," which will forever be associated with the Ronettes and Phil Spector's Wall of Sound, is stripped back to the source music that inspired its authors, Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, and Spector -- even when adding a Pickett flute solo to the chart. Ultimately, My True Story is a smooth, mostly laid-back, and soulful recording by Neville. He provides a healthy -- sometimes overly -- reverential respect for the original material. Coupled with his vocals, these restrained yet imaginative arrangements offer some surprising twists and turns. ~ Thom Jurek
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R&B - Released April 8, 2014 | Epic - Legacy

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R&B - Released February 10, 2014 | Jazz Village

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R&B - Released November 11, 2013 | Epic - Streamline Records

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Thirteen years passed between Tamar Braxton's first and second solo albums, but Winter Loversland -- released in November 2013 -- followed the latter by only a couple months. It's a brief Christmas album, only 30 minutes in length, in which Braxton covers a lot of familiar ground ("Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," "Silent Night," etc.) yet puts forth maximum effort. In some cases, the amount of energy exerted is greater than what's required -- most audibly so on an a cappella update of "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" that features Trina Braxton and dollops of melisma. "Sleigh Ride" and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" get traditional vocal arrangements with contemporary beats, while some songs -- like "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," including an undeniably stunning closing note, and a serious "Santa Baby" -- are played straight. A medley of "Away in a Manger" and "Little Drummer Boy," apart from what sounds like light fingersnaps, is all vocals as well, more an impressive showcase for Braxton's talent and versatility than anything else. Braxton co-wrote the album's lone original, a ballad titled "She Can Have You." Nearly suitable for everyday listening, it's basically a breakup song with Christmas mentioned three times. ~ Andy Kellman
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R&B - Released October 18, 2013 | Flying Buddha - Sony Masterworks

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R&B - Released October 11, 2013 | Epic

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The sticker on the front of TLC 20 proclaims "Music inspired by VH1's film CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story," which is neither actual nor factual. With the exception of one new song, "Meant to Be" -- a pleasant ballad co-written by Ne-Yo -- these songs were released during the early '90s through the early 2000s, long before the film was conceived. Keke Palmer, who portrayed Chilli, wasn't born until over a year after the release of Ooooooohhh...On the TLC Tip. Regardless, this set is a decent introduction to one of the biggest pop groups of the '90s. Released a week ahead of the film's premiere, it features all nine of the group's Hot 100 Top Ten singles, from 1992's "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg" through 1999's "Unpretty," along with a handful of relatively minor hits, album cuts, and the new song. It could have gone deeper -- as deep as the 19-track Now & Forever: The Hits (2003), at least. There's much more to enjoy beyond what's here. The group made three of the best '90s pop-R&B albums, and 2002's 3D was no embarrassment. ~ Andy Kellman
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R&B - Released August 30, 2013 | G.O.O.D. Music - Columbia

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R&B - Released June 21, 2013 | Anti - Epitaph

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Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy proved to be such a good match on You Are Not Alone -- the album won a Grammy in the category of Best Americana Album -- that the two opted to do it again. Not tremendously different from that 2010 set, One True Vine does involve a slightly different core lineup. Tweedy's teenaged son Spencer drums instead of Stephen Hodges, and Tweedy, rather than Jeff Turmes, handles all the bass duties (among several other instruments). The album features another assortment of covers and new material. Its quieter, reserved, slightly darker mood is tipped off with a cover of Low's "Holy Ghost." Mavis' characteristically arresting voice, supported by Mark Greenberg's lightly touched Wurlitzer and a hushed backing vocalist trio of Tiffany "Makeda" Francisco, Kelly Hogan, and Donny Gerrard, sounds like it could have been recorded during a 2 a.m. service. Early Funkadelic classic "Can You Get to That" -- the most inspired choice of the Tweedy sessions -- is done straightforwardly with slightly goofy vocals from Tweedy and Gerrard. Nick Lowe's contribution, "Far Celestial Shore," can be identified quickly, yet it's not out of place among Tweedy's three originals or the two songs within the public domain. A new version of "I Like the Things About Me" (aka "I Like the Things About You") swaps twanging guitar for buzzing bass and has deeper resonance with Mavis singing lead than the Pops-fronted original heard on The Staple Swingers. Throughout, Tweedy and company give Mavis even more room than on You Are Not Alone. While this isn't as exciting, the grip is instant, hard to break. ~ Andy Kellman
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R&B - Released January 1, 2013 | UNI - MOTOWN

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R&B - Released March 29, 2013 | Parkwood Entertainment - Columbia

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R&B - Released October 15, 2007 | Rhino Atlantic

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R&B - Released July 11, 2007 | Rhino Atlantic

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R&B - Released December 25, 2012 | Rhino Atlantic

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R&B - Released September 25, 2012 | Anti - Epitaph

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R&B - Released April 26, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

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R&B - Released April 19, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

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R&B - Released August 21, 2012 | Rhino Atlantic

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R&B - Released August 21, 2012 | Rhino Atlantic

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R&B - Released November 20, 2007 | Rhino Atlantic

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R&B - Released June 13, 2000 | Reprise

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Genre

R&B in the magazine
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    The Carters are untouchable The ultimate luxury for the biggest stars is to be able to randomly release an album without warning. Although much anticipated ever since their first collaboration in 2002, Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s com...
  • TLC, back to the 90’s
    TLC, back to the 90’s T-Boz and Chilli revive the flame of their vintage R&B ...