Albums

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Soul - To be released February 22, 2019 | Rhino

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Soul - Released February 15, 2019 | Club del Disco

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Soul - Released January 11, 2019 | Club del Disco

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Soul - Released September 14, 2018 | Rhino

Between their first and second albums, Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band taped a May 18, 1968 performance at the Haunted House night club in Hollywood for possible future use. Edited versions of a half-dozen of the songs appeared on their 1968 album Together, and an edited version of another ("Bottomless") was issued as a B-side. But this two-CD set, issued on Rhino Handmade a good 40 years later, has about two-and-a-half hours from the performance, with complete and uncut versions of the aforementioned songs. On the one hand, it's a valuable historical document; there aren't all that many live recordings of significant late-'60s soul-funk bands, and this one has both very good sound and very tight performances. On the other hand, it's not the group at their most interesting, since all but three of the songs are covers. Granted, they sound like one of the best cover bands you could have possibly heard at the time, playing with both guts and precision, and taking some liberties (some improvisational) with the source material, though not too drastic or lengthy ones. They're certainly versatile as well, taking on hits from Motown, Stax, James Brown, Sly Stone, the Impressions, Jackie Wilson, and others, as well as the occasional surprise or relatively obscure tune, like Willie Bobo's "Fried Neck Bones" and Otis Redding's "Sweet Lorene." Yet the hit-dominated set list just isn't the place to hear the outfit at their most original and innovative, though they offer fair original instrumentals in Wright's "The Joker" and Gabriel Flemings' "Bottomless." It does, however, also include the jam that grew out of "Funky Broadway," "Do Your Thing," that with some editing turned into their first hit. As usual, Rhino Handmade's packaging of this archival release is excellent, with lengthy historical liner notes. ~ Richie Unterberger
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Soul - Released May 4, 2018 | Columbia

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It’s 2018, Leon Bridges is back! Finally… after a debut album released in 2015, the stunning Coming Home, that was a sort of spirit child of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, a soul brother mastering every corner of that sixties groove, the young Texan signs off on an even more eclectic disc: Good Thing. On the first track, Bet Ain't Worth The Hand, he is languid like Curtis Mayfield. Later, he barges in on an 80s funky dance floor with You Don't Know and If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be). Later again, he opts for a velvety nu soul on Shy… These are the general feelings that emerge after a listen to this sophomore album: he never rests on his laurels and sticks with one particular groove. Thus, a general vintage sentiment exits and incomes a plural groove. At this rate, Leon Bridges might do a bit of auto tuning on his third record... © Max Dembo/Qobuz
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Soul - Released March 13, 2018 | Columbia

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Soul - Released January 4, 1974 | Geffen

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Soul - Released November 10, 2017 | Rhino Atlantic

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This type of album brings on the eternal debate: why fix a masterpiece if it ain’t broke? This is definitely the kind of metaphysical interrogation that you could ask when listening to A Brand New Me: Aretha Franklin With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The idea is simple: take the vocals from the mythical recordings by the great soul singer for the label Atlantic in the ‘60s and ‘70s and place them on new arrangements performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Recorded in the Abbey Road studios in London, all the classics including Respect, Think, Don't Play That Song (You Lied) and I Say A Little Prayer resonate here in a symphonic version. We find Nick Patrick and Don Reedman hiding behind the creation, the same producers who conceived If I Can Dream: Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Some will find this scandalous. Others, rather futile. And others will enjoy this new staging of careful arrangements that at least has the merit of not damaging the heart of this nuclear powerhouse of groove: the voice of Aretha Franklin herself. © CM/Qobuz
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Soul - Released January 1, 1993 | Vee-Jay Records

Founded in Gary, Indiana in 1953 by James C. Bracken and wife Vivian Carter, Vee-Jay quickly emerged as the most successful black-owned label in the U.S. -- home to classic singles including the Spaniels' "Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite," Gene Chandler's "Duke of Earl" and Dee Clark's "Raindrops" -- by the following decade the company rivaled any major label for creative consistency and commercial success, culminating in 1964 with a licensing deal that yielded the sale of 2.6 million Beatles records. By 1966, however, Vee-Jay was bankrupt, due largely to an ill-conceived contract with superstars the Four Seasons and subsequent legal snafus. While most Vee-Jay retrospectives (most notably 1993's definitive 75-track overview The Vee-Jay Story: Celebrating 40 Years of Classic Hits) have focused exclusively on the label's myriad chart hits, its commercial misfires and forgotten B-sides have consistently eluded exhumation; the first volume in the Taste of Soul series corrects this oversight, going far beyond the familiar classics to delve into the dustiest corners of the Vee-Jay vaults. It's a pleasure to discover such elegant, regal music from the golden era of R&B -- highlights include the "5" Royales' "They Don't Know," Joe Simon's "My Adorable One," Jerry Butler's "Good Times" and Ivory Joe Hunter's "Someone Is Stealing My Love." ~ Jason Ankeny
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Soul - Released June 2, 2017 | Blackbird Production Partners LLC

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Soul - Released June 2, 2017 | Blackbird Production Partners LLC

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Soul - Released June 2, 2017 | Blackbird Production Partners LLC

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A major voice of the Staple Singers founded by her father Pop Staples, Mavis Staples has always been adept at making a musical mixture all of her own, bringing together the introspection of gospel, the power of soul, and the groove of rhythm'n'blues, which breathes life into her tailor-made songs. As for her influence: where to start? A quick look at the list of performers who come to pay tribute on this album, brought together by Don Was, gives an impression of her importance. In the cavernous Chicago Auditorium Theatre, Regine Chassagne and Win Butler of Arcade Fire, Taj Mahal, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Aaron Neville, Patty Griffin, Grace Potter, Ryan Bingham, Michael McDonald, Widespread Panic, Emmylou Harris, Gregg Allman, Buddy Miller, Keb' Mo', Otis Clay and many others all show up to help her blow out her 75 candles. Over more than an hour and a half, they all sing the praises of this timeless high priestess of soul and gospel. © CM/Qobuz
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Soul - Released January 1, 1969 | Geffen* Records

Everett made her best records for Vee-Jay in the mid-'60s, but this album, originally released on Uni in 1969, isn't far behind in merit. Featuring her number two R&B single (and Top 40 pop hit) "There'll Come a Time," this has much more of a sweet soul flavor than her Vee-Jay sides, at times blending the trademarks of her brassy native Chicago scene with a Philadelphia influence. It's far from too sweet, though, with strong material, punchy arrangements, and Everett's always dependably energetic and warm vocals. It also contains the R&B hit "I Can't Say No to You." The CD reissue adds three valuable 1969-1970 singles that were previously unavailable on album, including the Top 20 R&B hit "It's Been a Long Time," arranged by Donny Hathaway and written by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and Jerry Butler. ~ Richie Unterberger

Soul - Released April 7, 2017 | Demp Music

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Soul - Released February 7, 1965 | Geffen

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Soul - Released February 2, 1968 | Geffen

While the title track is one of Mayfield's classic civil rights anthems, most of this album is actually dedicated to standard romantic themes. This isn't necessarily a drawback; almost every cut is a quality Mayfield original, and the harmonies and vocal interplay among the group are outstanding. "Nothing Can Stop Me," which had been a hit in 1965 for Gene Chandler, is an uptempo highlight, and "Little Brown Boy" shows more of the African-American pride that had been explored in "We're a Winner," albeit in a more tender, ballad mode. The closing cover of "Up Up and Away" is misplaced, but overall this is one of the better Impressions albums to pick up if you want more than what's found on the greatest-hits collections, with excellent production and Johnny Pate arrangements throughout. ~ Richie Unterberger
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Soul - Released June 7, 1964 | Geffen

Already a celebrated songwriter by the time of the third Impressions album, Curtis Mayfield introduced a political element to his material with the Top Ten hit "Keep on Pushing." An anthem of the burgeoning civil-rights movement (the 1964 Civil Rights Act was signed several weeks after its release), "Keep on Pushing" cemented his blend of gospel optimism with a relentless spirit of self-improvement. Though it was the only message song present, the album featured all the hallmarks of an Impressions set: impeccably smooth harmonies, the dynamic horn charts of Johnny Pate, and many more of Mayfield's irresistible songs (each with a clever spin on the usual love lyric as well as a strong sense of melody). "Talking About My Baby," the album's other big hit, was an adoring love song driven by a simple chorus and delivered by soul music's greatest harmonists. The simple ballad "I've Been Trying" was one of the most delicate and powerful the group had ever delivered, and the gospel march "Amen" became a Top Ten pop hit in early 1965 after its use in the Sidney Poitier film Lilies of the Field (for which Poitier became the first African-American to receive an Academy award). Keep on Pushing was the Impressions' first Top Ten album hit, and an excellent introduction for pop audiences just waking up to the inspirational power of soul music's finest group. ~ John Bush
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Soul - Released August 8, 1965 | Geffen

The Impressions continued a great run of hit singles and fine albums with this outstanding release, one of three that were issued on ABC in 1965. The structure by now was both fixed and marvelous; songs revolved around Mayfield's leads, superb production and arrangements, guitar licks and riffs anchoring the backdrop, and Fred Cash and Sam Gooden interacting with Mayfield on the choruses, bridges, and turnarounds. ~ Ron Wynn
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Soul - Released March 2, 1966 | Geffen

The Impressions were certainly dominating the charts and making wonderful albums in the '60s, and this one didn't break the string. They would depart from ABC in two years, but at this point there were no concerns, even though they didn't match the previous years' glittering array of hits. But their singing was no less emphatic or compelling, nor had Mayfield's writing, productions, or arrangements slipped. ~ Ron Wynn

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Soul in the magazine