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Soul - Released February 22, 2019 | Rhino

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A guitarist worshipped by Jimi Hendrix, an insanely good falsetto singer that even Prince looked up to, an author heavily involved in the American civil rights movement and a top-tier songwriter: Curtis Mayfield was a man of many talents. His groovy symphonies helped form solid links between funk, jazz, blues, soul and traditional gospel. After making his name with The Impressions in the 60s, he embarked on a solo career in 1970. This box set named Keep On Keeping On contains the singer’s first four studio albums, each remastered in Hi-Res 24-Bit quality: Curtis (1970), Roots (1971), Back to the World (1973) and Sweet Exorcist (1974). Here, the rhythm'n'blues enjoy a second life, supported by a wah-wah guitar, careful percussion and an always airy string section. Every topic concerned is a mini-tragedy, socially engaged, anchored in traditional gospel music. The masterful arranging of these albums (especially his masterpiece Curtis, and Roots) can be considered rivals to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. It is worth mentioning that this 1970-1974 box set does not include the soundtrack to Superfly, Gordon Parks Jr.’s 1972 film which contains the singles Pusherman and Freddie’s Dead. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 5, 2019 | Rhino

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Ian Curtis had only been buried for one year before the surviving members of Joy Division returned to the studio, dried their tears and attempted making music again. Out of the still reddened ashes of the most emblematic post-punk group, New Order was born. A newcomer Gillian Gilbert was on keys. The guitarist Bernard Sumner donned the captain’s armband. And Martin Hannett, Joy Division’s producer, was again behind the controls. Recorded between the 24th of April and 4th of May 1981 and released on the 11th of November of the same year on Factory Records, the band’s first album is an impeccable transition of which time makes it only more impressive. The rigidity and coldness of Joy Division’s anthracite rock remains at the heart of the compositions. Sharp rhythms and clear guitars with depressive, sickly groans like a zombie on its last legs, Movement contains, however, beginnings of a sound atypical from the young Mancunians that never smile. We are still far from the electronic new wave and dance that New Order demonstrate on their subsequent album, but the role of keys and synths here shows beginnings of a new path for the band. This 2019 Definitive edition offers, in addition to a stellar remastering, 18 demos and alternative mixes. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 20, 2017 | Rhino

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For their third album, The Smiths are at the top of their game: a tortured crooning voice, crystalline arpeggios seeping from a limpid guitar, romantic and cynical lyrics, everything’s gathered for some 100% British pop, like The Kinks, The Who and The Jam knew how to create in their day… The Queen Is Dead, Bigmouth Strikes Again, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out and Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others are all introspective gems that the charismatic Morrissey transforms into pure poetry. Teenage worries, social paintings, subtle caricatures, Mozzer dips his pen here in the ink of perfection. © MD/Qobuz
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Punk / New Wave - Released July 24, 2015 | Rhino

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Soul - Released August 4, 2000 | Rhino

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
The first solo album by the former leader of the Impressions, Curtis represented a musical apotheosis for Curtis Mayfield -- indeed, it was practically the "Sgt. Pepper's" album of '70s soul, helping with its content and its success to open the whole genre to much bigger, richer musical canvases than artists had previously worked with. All of Mayfield's years of experience of life, music, and people were pulled together into a rich, powerful, topical musical statement that reflected not only the most up-to-date soul sounds of its period, finely produced by Mayfield himself, and the immediacy of the times and their political and social concerns, but also embraced the most elegant R&B sounds of the past. As a producer, Mayfield embraced the most progressive soul sounds of the era, stretching them out compellingly on numbers like "Move on Up," but he also drew on orchestral sounds (especially harps), to achieve some striking musical timbres (check out "Wild and Free"), and wove all of these influences, plus the topical nature of the songs, into a neat, amazingly lean whole. There was only one hit single off of this record, "(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Down Below We're All Going to Go," which made number three, but the album as a whole was a single entity and really had to be heard that way. ~ Bruce Eder
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Metal - Released June 1, 1970 | Rhino

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Alternative & Indie - Released November 29, 2019 | Rhino

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 23, 2011 | Rhino

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Rock - Released July 16, 2002 | Rhino

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Folk/Americana - Released June 30, 1975 | Rhino

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Sad, spare, and beautiful, Blue is the quintessential confessional singer/songwriter album. Forthright and poetic, Joni Mitchell's songs are raw nerves, tales of love and loss (two words with relative meaning here) etched with stunning complexity; even tracks like "All I Want," "My Old Man," and "Carey" -- the brightest, most hopeful moments on the record -- are darkened by bittersweet moments of sorrow and loneliness. At the same time that songs like "Little Green" (about a child given up for adoption) and the title cut (a hymn to salvation supposedly penned for James Taylor) raise the stakes of confessional folk-pop to new levels of honesty and openness, Mitchell's music moves beyond the constraints of acoustic folk into more intricate and diverse territory, setting the stage for the experimentation of her later work. Unrivaled in its intensity and insight, Blue remains a watershed. ~ Jason Ankeny
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Folk/Americana - Released June 1, 2003 | Rhino

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The second album Judee Sill made proved to be her last. This brief though enjoyable outing took its toll on Sill -- a notoriously slow songwriter -- during its making, turning her back to her recently kicked heroin addiction and away from the desire to create more music. Instead of using an outside arranger for the strings (as she did on her previous album), Sill did all of the work herself. Her lack of formal training and the immense amount of orchestral overdubs certainly would have made such an outing a hardship for anyone. The album doesn't suffer much from its sometimes syrupy exterior, though -- the songs are almost as strong as any of those from her debut. To wit, Heart Food suffers only in comparison to its predecessor; otherwise, it's a stellar example of the kind of singer/songwriter fare the music industry was mining in the early '70s. The supporting cast of top L.A. studio musicians solidifies Sill's unique brand of country-flavored pop, which moves from introspective meanderings to loping rock, often within a single song. [This edition of the album contains bonus tracks.] ~ Alex Stimmel
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Rock - Released January 1, 1970 | Rhino

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Since he's a limited vocalist with erratic songwriting skills, one could justifiably argue that the soundtrack medium is the best vehicle for Ry Cooder's talents, allowing him to construct eclectic, chiefly instrumental pieces drawing upon all sorts of roots music and ethnic flavors (often, but not always, employing his excellent blues and slide guitar). This two-CD, 34-song compilation gathers excerpts from 11 of the soundtracks he worked on between 1980 and 1993 (three of the cuts, from the 1981 film Southern Comfort, are previously unreleased). As few listeners (even Cooder fans) are dedicated enough to go to the trouble of finding all of his individual soundtracks, this is a good distillation of many of his more notable contributions in this idiom, although it inevitably leaves out some fine moments. Still, it's well programmed and evocative, often conjuring visions of ghostly landscapes and funky border towns. ~ Richie Unterberger
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Rock - Released June 30, 1975 | Rhino

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The heart of James Taylor's appeal is that you can take him two ways. On the one hand, his music, including that warm voice, is soothing; its minor key melodies and restrained playing draw in the listener. On the other hand, his world view, especially on such songs as "Fire and Rain," reflects the pessimism and desperation of the 1960s hangover that was the early '70s. That may not be intentional: "Fire and Rain" was about the suicide of a fellow inmate of Taylor's at a mental institution, not the national malaise. But Taylor's sense of wounded hopelessness -- "I'm all in pieces, you can have your own choice," he sings in "Country Road" -- struck a chord with music fans, especially because of its attractive mixture of folk, country, gospel, and blues elements, all of them carefully understated and distanced. Taylor didn't break your heart; he understood that it was already broken, as was his own, and he offered comfort. As a result, Sweet Baby James sold millions of copies, spawned a Top Ten hit in "Fire and Rain" and a Top 40 hit in "Country Road," and launched not only Taylor's career as a pop superstar but also the entire singer/songwriter movement of the early '70s that included Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Jackson Browne, Cat Stevens, and others. A second legacy became clear two decades later, when country stars like Garth Brooks began to cite Taylor, with his use of steel guitar, references to Jesus, and rural and Western imagery on Sweet Baby James, as a major influence. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Rock - Released July 16, 2002 | Rhino

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Pop - Released February 22, 2011 | Rhino

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The Monkees' first album was a huge success, following on the number one single "Last Train to Clarksville." The Monkees spent 78 weeks on the Billboard chart including an astounding 13 weeks at number one. The record wasn't only a commercial juggernaut, it also stands as one of the great debuts of all time, and while the record and the group have faced criticism from rock purists through the ages, it stands the test of time perfectly well, sounding as alive and as much fun 40 years later. Prefabricated? Yes. After a fast buck? Yes. Exhilarating? Yes! Fab? Definitely! The music may have been created by studio cats instead of the band themselves but the pros weren't merely phoning it in. Listen to the aggressive guitars on "Saturday's Child," the raw romp of "Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day," or the cascading wall of guitars and fiddles on "Sweet Young Thing," and you know they weren't just padding their bank accounts. They were playing some real rock & roll and you can credit the producers for that. Producers Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart aren't craftsmen on the level of Phil Spector (who was actually approached to produce the band but probably laughed the Monkees' team right out the door), but they knew how to craft razor-sharp and exciting pop tunes with lots of spark, soul, and the occasional psychedelic touch. And they knew how to get great vocals from their group. While the Monkees themselves didn't do much more than sing, the singing they did was first-rate. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better pop/rock vocalist than Micky Dolenz; his work on "Take a Giant Step" and "Last Train to Clarksville" is thrilling and bursting with life. The other lead vocalist, Davy Jones, thankfully doesn't get a chance to show off his full range of annoyingly whimsical mannerisms; Boyce and Hart keep him under wraps and his vocals on "I Wanna Be Free" and "I'll Be True to You" are achingly sweet, even a little soulful in a very British way. Boyce and Hart weren't the only great producers involved with the record, as a listen to "Papa Gene's Blues" and "Sweet Young Thing" show that Mike Nesmith also knew how to produce great pop music, despite what Don Kirshner may have thought. The various producers, supervisors, and coordinators were also savants when it came to both writing (in Boyce, Hart, and Nesmith's case) and picking songs for the group. Indeed, the only songs that feel like filler are the rudimentary rocker "Let's Dance On" and the silly "Gonna Buy Me a Dog," but even these throwaways are charming and stand up to repeated listens. It's easy to see why kids were buying this record as fast as the label could press them up. Despite the origins of the group and the behind-the-scenes machinations, the music itself is young, exciting, and free. Who cares who did what and who didn't do what when the results are as rock-solid as "Last Train to Clarksville" or "Sweet Young Thing"? You could stack The Monkees up against almost any record of 1966 and the competition would be fierce, with this record coming out on top except in only a few cases. ~ Tim Sendra
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 23, 2011 | Rhino

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Alternative & Indie - Released November 12, 1991 | Rhino

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Immediately! Now! Right now! The revolution is here! The hippie dream has been crushed! The West Coast pacifism has been exploded! With this first album (a live) from the big sound terrorists from Michigan, rock ‘n’ roll enters body and soul into life-saving and badly furious violence. During this concert recorded at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit in October 1968, Wayne Kramer and Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith beat up their guitars like genius butchers. With a handheld mike, Rob Tyner is an ivory James Brown in a trance. Obviously, the rock ‘n’ roll genius from the 5 isn’t limited to this simple electric tsunami. It draws its energy, as well as its madness, from the primitive rock of the Troggs, the libertarian jazz from Sun Ra and the raw blues from John Lee Hooker. With Iggy Pop’s Stooges, the MC5 enforces on the industrial Detroit the law of noise and fury. As they were chanting then, Motor City Is Burning: decades later, the embers are still incandescent… © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Soul - Released August 10, 2004 | Rhino

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Roots is Curtis Mayfield's visionary album, a landmark creation every bit as compelling and far-reaching in its musical and extra-musical goals as Marvin Gaye's contemporary What's Goin' On. Opening on the hit "Get Down," the album soars on some of the sweetest and most eloquent -- yet driving -- soul sounds heard up to that time. Mayfield's growing musical ambitions, first manifested on the Curtis album, and his more sophisticated political sensibilities, presented with a lot of raw power on Curtis Live!, are pulled together here in a new, richer studio language, embodied in extended song structures ("Underground"), idealistic yet lyrically dazzling anthems ("We Got to Have Peace," "Keep On Keeping On," and, best of all, the soaring "Beautiful Brother of Mine"), and impassioned blues ("Now You're Gone"). The music is even bolder than the material on the Curtis album, with Mayfield expanding his instrumental range to the level of a veritable soul orchestra; and the recording is better realized, as Mayfield, with that album and a tour behind him, shows a degree of confidence that only a handful of soul artists of this era could have mustered. ~ Bruce Eder
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Jazz - Released April 8, 2008 | Rhino

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Singer Al Jarreau's double album, Look to the Rainbow, is easily the most jazz-oriented of all of his Warner Bros. recordings. Cut shortly before Jarreau permanently switched to a more mundane version of R&B, these performances feature him as a brilliant scat singer (able to emulate practically any instrument) and a superior ballad interpreter. Joined by vibraphonist Lynn Blessing, keyboardist Tom Canning, bassist Abe Laboriel, and drummer Joe Correro, Jarreau is in top form on such numbers as "Better Than Anything," "Look to the Rainbow" and "Take Five." Unfortunately, Al Jarreau essentially started on top, artistically speaking, and has since been intent on emphasizing potential commercial appeal over any possible innovations or chance-taking. ~ Scott Yanow
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released May 26, 1992 | Rhino

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It would have been hard to match the artistic success of their debut EP on a full-length recording, but Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth did just that on Mecca and the Soul Brother, and they did so in the most unlikely way of all after the succinctness of All Souled Out -- by coming up with a sprawling, nearly 80-minute-long album on which not a single song or interlude is a throwaway or a superfluous piece. Granted, 80 minutes is a long stretch of time for sustained listening, but the music is completely worthy of that time, allowing the duo to stretch out in ways that their EP rendered impossible. Again, the primary star is Pete Rock's production acumen, and he ups the ante of rock-solid drums, steady cymbal beats, smooth-rolling bass, and fatback organ, not to mention his signature horn loops. C.L. Smooth is the perfect vocal match for the music. He is maybe one of the few MCs capable of rapping a fairly credible love song, as he does on "Lots of Lovin'." "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)," a tribute to friend and Heavy D. dancer Trouble T-Roy, who was accidentally killed, packs a poignant emotional weight, but it is Smooth's more direct and conscientious -- and frequently autobiographical -- side which ultimately carries the album lyrically. The songs are connected and the album is propelled forward by Rock's quick, soul-tight interludes; these are usually bits of old R&B and soul tunes but sometimes they're spoken pieces or spontaneous, freestyle sessions. These interludes provide a sort of dense spiritual tone and resonance in the album that is not religiously based at all, but fully hip-hop based, emerging from the urban altars that are the basements and rooftops of the city. ~ Stanton Swihart