Albums

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Soul - Released December 15, 2014 | RCA Records Label

Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Pitchfork: Best New Music - Sélection JAZZ NEWS - Grammy Awards
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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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Soul - Released January 1, 2014 | Motown

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Hi-Res Audio
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 December 21, 1993 | Rhino Atlantic

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

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Hi-Res Audio
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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Soul - Released November 17, 2017 | Anti - Epitaph

Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Indispensable JAZZ NEWS
Ten years after signing with the ANTI label, Mavis Staples pursues her impressive resurrection. Still joined by Jeff Tweedy, the great soul gospel priestess even hands him the wheel in this If All I Was Black, for which the band leader of Wilco has penned all the songs. After We'll Never Turn Back produced in 2007 by Ry Cooder, You Are Not Alone in 2010, One True Vine in 2013 and Livin' On A High Note in 2016 (on which she asked Nick Cave, Ben Harper, Justin Vernon a.k.a. Bon Iver, The Head & The Heart, tUnE-yArds, Neko Case, Aloe Blacc, Son Little, Valerie June and M Ward to participate), Pops Staples’ daughter inhabits each composition and her voice tames the lyrics of songs that couldn’t be more politically motivated. A major figure of the Civil Right Movement, a regular of great causes and militancy in songs, this lady masters these anti-Trump pieces with her usual class, with strong yet subtle criticisms—that are never Manichean nor childish—of an American in full regression. Above all, the blend of gospel inwardness, soul power and rhythm ‘n’ blues groove that she offers perfectly combines with Tweedy’s rustic and 'no added sugars' production. A great soul disc! © MZ/Qobuz
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Soul - Released March 22, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

Distinctions The Unusual Suspects - The Qobuz Standard
Among Aretha aficionados, Amazing Grace has long been considered one of her high-water marks, since it captured her glorious return to her gospel roots in front of a live audience. The original 1972 album contained just 14 tracks, culled from two live performances with the Southern California Community Choir, Ken Lupper, and the Rev. James Cleveland at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Fans have long wished for the release of the two complete concerts -- which is exactly what Rhino's Amazing Grace: The Complete Recordings gives them. Over the course of two discs and 29 tracks, every performance Franklin gave that January, along with comments from Cleveland and solo tracks from Lupper and the Choir, is unfurled, and if anything, the music is even more impressive when heard complete and unedited. Of course, the nature of this set makes it of interest primarily to dedicated fans, but they'll likely be delighted by the entire package. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Soul - Released January 1, 2014 | Motown

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Hi-Res Audio
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Soul - Released December 21, 1993 | Rhino Atlantic

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Standard - Hi-Res Audio
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Soul - Released January 1, 2002 | Rhino Atlantic

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Standard - Hi-Res Audio
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Soul - Released October 6, 1992 | Rhino Atlantic

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Standard - Hi-Res Audio
Aretha Franklin's career was in a down period in the mid-'70s when she collaborated with Curtis Mayfield to sing his compositions for the film Sparkle. The film proved a non-event, but for Franklin it marked a return to glory. Once again she was the Queen of Soul, doing the chilling, spectacular leaps, cries, whoops, and shouts that defined secularized gospel in the late '60s. The title cut was a sizable hit, while "Something He Can Feel" became an anthem. Mayfield's lyrics and production shouldn't be overlooked; he added just the right amount of background trappings, and the Kitty Haywood Singers provided Franklin's best continuing backgrounds since the Sweet Inspirations. ~ Ron Wynn
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Soul - Released October 1, 2002 | Rhino Atlantic

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Hi-Res Audio
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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

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Hi-Res Audio
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Soul - Released July 13, 1993 | Rhino Atlantic

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Standard - Hi-Res Audio
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Soul - Released December 5, 1995 | Rhino Atlantic

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Hi-Res Audio
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Soul - Released January 1, 2011 | UNI - MOTOWN

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Reissue

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