Albums

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Soul - Released October 27, 2006 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

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Soul - Released April 27, 2018 | Bad Boy Records

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"Yoga" was an ostensibly minor part of the Janelle Monáe discography by the arrival of Dirty Computer. Three years old and outshined by another Wondaland release, Jidenna's "Classic Man," it nevertheless became Monáe's first single to hit the Billboard Hot 100. That Monáe hadn't previously hit the chart as a headliner was further evidence of a flawed industry, given that she and primary collaborators Nate Wonder and Chuck Lightning had been making songs with pop appeal for nearly a decade. "Yoga" did show that Monáe was more open to messing with contemporary trends. Moreover, the song's humanized, sexually uninhibited, and anti-authoritarian qualities -- she was earthbound, celebrating her body, asserting "You cannot police me" -- also indicated the course she has taken with her third album. Oddly enough, "Make Me Feel," the one Dirty Computer track on which Monáe employs a wholly pop songwriting team including Julia Michaels, Justin Tranter, and Mattman & Robin, is the funkiest and friskiest number here, clearly influenced by the late (and uncredited) Prince. Monáe and her trusty Wondaland partners, the album's dominant creative force, colorfully twist and flip new wave-leaning pop with booming bass drums and rattling percussion. They transmit powerful and defiant jubilance in response to "wack ass fuckboys everywhere (from the traphouse to the White House) who make the lives of little brown girls so damn hard," among dozens of other inspirations Monáe acknowledges in the essential liner notes. Almost every track is densely packed with quotables delivered in approaches that shift from easygoing elegance to hard-fought, triumphant conviction. The latter approach yields the album's apex, "Django Jane," in which Monáe raps throughout with inhuman precision, threatening a pussy riot, declaring "We ain't hidden no more," and uplifting the "highly melanated" while dropping some of the set's few sci-fi allusions, "Made a fandroid outta yo' girlfriend" among them. Not to be lost in all the power moves are indirect and direct references to a romantic relationship -- another form of dissent -- referenced and explored throughout, from the glowing "Crazy, Classic, Life" through the fiery "So Afraid," the only moment of emotional fragility. While this is easily the most loaded Monáe album in terms of guests, with Brian Wilson, Stevie Wonder, and Grimes among the contributors, there's no doubt that it's a Wondaland product. It demonstrates that artful resistance and pop music are not mutually exclusive. ~ Andy Kellman
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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 30, 2018 | Verve Records

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A great, revived soul voice. Politically-conscious songs from the Great American Songbook. This project harks back to the 1960s (and beyond), but it finds a strong echo in today's America, divided and rocked by President Trump... By dedicating the whole record to covers of songs by Bob Dylan, Bettye LaVette makes her voice heard, literally and figuratively. Produced by Steve Jordan, Things Have Changed which features, amongst others, Keith Richards and Trombone Shorty, alternates between warm, vintage soul, and funkier bursts of real rock'n'roll. Above all, the 72-year old soul artist from Michigan continues to prove that she has a lot of singing in her yet. LaVette made her definitive comeback as long ago as 2005, with the album I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise, itself also made up of covers, this time of songs from artists like Sinéad O'Connor, Lucinda Williams, Joan Armatrading, Rosanne Cash, Dolly Parton, Aimee Mann and Fiona Apple. Two years later she confirmed her vocal powers with The Scene Of The Crime which revisited Eddie Hinton, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, John Hiatt and Elton John. Coming, like all good things in spurts of threes, Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook, from 2010, saw her taking on compositions by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Traffic, the Animals, Led Zep, George Harrison, Pink Floyd, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, the Moody Blues, Derek & The Dominos and the Who… This latest 2018 offering, though, stands head and shoulders above the others, thanks to the hair-raising sincerity that the singer brings to Dylan's repertoire. Great art. © Max Dembo/Qobuz
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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

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Soul - Released January 25, 2019 | Decca (UMO)

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XamVolo’s shape-shifting debut album is stunning. At only 23 years old, the Londoner-turned-Liverpudlian infuses a delicate soul hemmed with jazz and pop in All The Sweetness On The Surface, a mix that was already well distilled in his two previous EPs, Chirality (2016) and A Damn Fine Spectacle (2018). It’s an ingenious record that stretches itself over fifteen diverse tracks. Everything changes, except his warm voice that remains well-attached to his lyrics, which he unfurls nonchalantly. Lose yourself in the voluptuous R&B which is shaped by guitar riffs, distant synths, softened choirs and the heavy tempo on the suave track Lose Love. Enjoy the well-cut jazzy brass of Feels Good, which samples from Thelonious Monk's Thelonious. Succumb to the elegant soul of Old Soul. Behind those round tinted glasses, Samuel Akinlolu Folorunsho has created the perfect neo-Soul setting. © Charlotte Saintoin/Qobuz
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Soul - Released October 29, 2007 | Rhino Atlantic

Aretha Franklin has simply been one of the greatest singers of the modern generation, and whether bringing her powerful, passionate voice to bear on gospel standards, songs from the Great American Songbook, jazz standards, pop ditties, or deep Southern soul and R&B, she has always had the presence -- much like Ray Charles -- to make anything she touches unmistakably hers. Franklin began her career in gospel when she was still a teenager, and her amazing vocal talents, coupled with her fine piano playing, marked her as a once-in-a-lifetime kind of artist, qualities very apparent to legendary talent scout John Hammond, who signed her to Columbia Records. The problem Hammond and Columbia immediately ran into, though, was how to best present that spirited voice to the secular pop world. Columbia tried Franklin in a variety of styles and settings, but none of them exactly caught fire with the public -- that didn't happen until after the singer had moved on to Atlantic Records and an inspired pairing with producer Jerry Wexler, who brought out Franklin's deep soul roots by putting her in front of the Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section. The hits came pouring out, including "Chain of Fools," "Respect," "Spanish Harlem," and several other iconic classics, all of which are featured in this 60-track playlist drawn from Franklin's productive stay at Atlantic. Heard together like this, they form the heart and soul of her impressive legacy. ~ Steve Leggett
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Soul - Released February 8, 2019 | Anti - Epitaph

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"It's kind of unbelievable to me that I’m still recording. I never thought I would still be singing at my age, and people seem to really want to hear me, they know me, they give me love - I'm just overwhelmed, really. I thank God every night before I go to bed and then again every morning for waking up." Few people would have imagined that at 79 years old Mavis Staples would still be reaching a wide audience and recording albums. Her inner strength is fully intact and this live performance at the Union Chapel in London just goes to prove it. Trump's America acts as a good source of inspiration and a powerful fuel for this voice that sings about God, love, and all the injustices and evils that surround us. She’s just as politically engaged as she was during The Staple Singers’ heyday (who were led by Pops Staples, her illustrious father) when the band released several protest songs for the Civil Rights Movement. Here, the gospel queen essentially sings songs from albums that she has released on the label ANTI since 2007. From Love and Trust by Ben Harper to Funkadelic's Can You Get to That and What You Gonna Do (which she sang during the sixties with The Staple Singers), from Let's Do It Again by Curtis Mayfield to Slippery People by Talking Heads, Mavis Staples’ voice turns everything it touches into gold. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Soul - Released June 20, 1995 | Rhino Atlantic

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While the inclusion of "Respect" -- one of the truly seminal singles in pop history -- is in and of itself sufficient to earn I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You classic status, Aretha Franklin's Atlantic label debut is an indisputable masterpiece from start to finish. Much of the credit is due to producer Jerry Wexler, who finally unleashed the soulful intensity so long kept under wraps during her Columbia tenure; assembling a crack Muscle Shoals backing band along with an abundance of impeccable material, Wexler creates the ideal setting to allow Aretha to ascend to the throne of Queen of Soul, and she responds with the strongest performances of her career. While the brilliant title track remains the album's other best-known song, each cut on I Never Loved a Man is touched by greatness; covers of Ray Charles' "Drown in My Own Tears" and Sam Cooke's "Good Times" and "A Change Is Gonna Come" are on par with the original recordings, while Aretha's own contributions -- "Don't Let Me Lose This Dream," "Baby, Baby, Baby," "Save Me," and "Dr. Feelgood (Love Is a Serious Business)" -- are perfectly at home in such lofty company. A soul landmark. ~ Jason Ankeny
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Soul - Released July 20, 2018 | Columbia

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Thanks to Ego Death, their third album from 2015, The Internet has reached a wider audience… And yet, Purple Naked Ladies released in 2011 and Feel Good, released two years later, had already highlighted the soulful voice of their female singer Syd Tha Kyd and the rather sophisticated and mostly minimalist sounds from Matt Martians, both members of the Odd Future collective. The Internet was tackling different sections of the soul music, with a preference for 90s nu soul, sometimes veering toward R&B or even hip-hop. Three years later, the orgy of sensual beats that are most of all as languorous as ever is still on the menu of their fourth opus, Hive Mind. In its DNA, The Internet is viscerally chill and this chill & laid back philosophy even becomes here an ever more mastered trademark. A sound and an attitude that mean that none of the thirteen songs from the album will be obvious to your ears on the first listen. With its dreamy melodies, Hive Mind, like all the deep works, is only understood with time. It’s a luxury in 2018 to take your time… © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Soul - Released October 27, 2017 | Anti - Epitaph

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On Soul Power (a Qobuzissime record!), Curtis Harding confirmed that modern soul and groovy R&B suit him well. With his first album in January 2015, this flamboyant outsider came to join a family that already included Aloe Blacc, Mayer Hawthorne, Jamie Lidell, Myron & E, Nicole Willis, Lady and Nick Waterhouse, among others... A native of Atlanta, a former backing singer for Cee Lo Green and close to Cole Alexander from the Black Lips, Curtis Harding is striking, both for the eclecticism that he has to offer, and for the ease with which he moves from a love ballad to a funky up-tempo work that verges on Southern soul rock. With his Curtis Mayfield, Aloe Blacc and Shuggie Otis-like melodies, this second album is no less groovy, but a little smoother and with a little more by the way of guitar. Produced by Danger Mouse, Face Your Fear alternates between soul gorged on gospel, and more psychedelic ambiances. But despite this vintage atmosphere that brings a hefty whiff of the seventies, Harding has brought a touch of modernity to make this record an intoxicating cocktail of past and present. © MZ/Qobuz
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Soul - Released December 21, 1993 | Rhino Atlantic

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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 September 28, 2018 | Rhino Atlantic

John Hammond couldn’t repeat with Aretha Franklin what he had pulled off with Billie Holiday and Bob Dylan. This was his only big failure, in a way… At Columbia (label), the producer felt he needed to turn her into a jazz, or even pop singer, while Jerry Wrexler knew full well that eternal soul would be the only way for the charismatic singer from Memphis. After signing her on Atlantic in 1967, after she had strung together a dozen unsuccessful albums for Columbia, Wrexler knew he had to send her to his native South to have her record with some of the local greats in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, in Rick Hall’s studio. The results were immediate, and with I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) recorded on January 24th, 1967, the gamble had already paid off! Wrexler understood that Aretha was a gospel artist first and foremost, and that he had to use that DNA and mix it with contemporary rhythm’n’blues, blues, and soul music. What followed, if we put it simply, was the greatest chapter in soul music history. The singer released a handful of albums recorded in New York, in Atlantic’s studios, where the whole gang from Muscle Shoals joined her. As its name suggests, this 34-title compilation features all her singles recorded between 1967 and 1970 and some handpicked tracks from her albums I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) (1967), Aretha Arrives (1967), Lady Soul (1968), Aretha Now (1968), Soul ’69 (1969), This Girl’s In Love With You (1970) and Spirit In The Dark (1970). Absolutely brilliant. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Soul - Released January 1, 2014 | Motown

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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 March 9, 2018 | Stax

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It’s hardly a coincidence that Nathaniel Rateliff is at Stax. With his band The Night Sweats, the native of Denver has become a true ambassador of this muggy southern soul as it was practised on the infamous Memphis label at the end of the sixties. With his instrumental virtuosity, the soul of his songs, the ardour of their interpretation and the preaching of his organ, Tearing at the Seams glorifies the spirit of a vast heritage ranging from Otis Redding to Van Morrison, through Booker T. and the MG’s, Ray Charles and Creedence Clearwater Revival. As can be expected, the rhythmic turbine goes at a million miles an hour, the brass are as incandescent as possible and the voice of Reteliff is a furious rattle that is completely his own. This gang does not care to look in the rearview mirror despite assuming a rather nostalgic sound. © Max Dembo/Qobuz
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Soul - Released May 4, 2018 | UME Direct

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On their first studio album in eight years, the Temptations revert to covers, as they did with multiple full-lengths earlier in the 2000s. This time, the group, still led by lone original member Otis Williams, selects mostly contemporary material. They do so with mixed results, excelling with imaginative takes on Maxwell's "Pretty Wings," Sam Smith's "Stay with Me," and John Mayer's "When I Was Your Man," pouncing on the opportunity to accentuate the latter's allusion to the work of Motown peer Marvin Gaye. A busy version of Michael Jackson's "Remember the Time" involves ill-fitting elements like "Papa Was a Rolling Stone"-evoking handclaps and gleaming synthesizers, while the Weeknd's "Earned It" is a creative risk not worth taking. "Waitin' on You" is the best of the few originals, easily mistakable for a (cleaned-up) take on a Jaheim hit. With each cover choice popularized by a solo artist, the set is a subtle reminder that vocal groups are nearly extinct. ~ Andy Kellman
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Soul - Released March 30, 2015 | Because Music

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Soul - Released January 1, 1973 | Motown

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Soul in the magazine