Top 20 r&b/soul albums - Making a list

Discussion in 'Music' started by Paul.S, Mar 1, 2005.

  1. Paul.S

    Paul.S Producer

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    My partner has decided to reform his wayward ways and get more into r & b. He asked me, the bigger music buff, to come up with some recommendations of albums he oughta have.

    For the sake of accessibility/digestibility, I'm thinking of trying to come up with a "top 20" list although I think it's an absurd, vexed task.

    Has anyone seen a piece in a music review magazine in recent years that attempts to present such a CD/SACD/DVD-Audio library--something like the "$500 fill-in-the-blank Library" features that CD Review magazine used to do?

    An October 1990 issue features a "Definitive Soul/R&B Library" article by a good music writer I like, David Okamoto. The kind of arguably timeless titles I’m wanting to identify are such that his list is still valid even though it was written almost 15 years ago. The problem is that there have of course been so many reissues/remasters in the intervening time. This is where I think I need the most help: identifying when a strong remaster (here I’m referring to the kind of work Rhino typically did for their reissues) of an album is available.

    A couple of soft guiding ideas:
    • I'm interested in a list of seminal albums, but I'd like to spice it up a bit and not end up with a entirely canonical, predictable list. At its upper digits, I’d also like to broaden the scope of the list and target albums by (black) artists in the funk, disco and perhaps rap idioms.
    • Of course there will be exceptions for good compilations, but I'd generally like to avoid greatest hits packages.
    • I'd like to include high resolution SACD and/or DVD-Audio releases where possible.
    Another thing I found of value in the Okamoto piece was the chronological organization into five major categories: "Soul Legends" (James Brown, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, etc.), "Motown" (Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Diana Ross & The Supremes, etc.), "The 70s: Soul’s Last Stand" (Earth Wind & Fire, The Chi-Lites, The Delfonics, etc.), "Fill In the Gaps" (fairly recent compilations such as the Atlantic Rhythm & Blues series) and finally "Torchbearers" (contemporary standard bearers respectfully continuing grand traditions such as Luther Vandross).

    So here’s a draft to begin. If I haven’t listed a specific album, it’s because I think that artist deserves a place on the list, but am in need of input on which album should make the cut.

    1) James Brown – Live At the Apollo, 1962


    2) Ray Charles


    3) Aretha Franklin – Aretha's Gold?

    I'd say Lady Soul, but then there are seminal Aretha hits that are not on that record . . .


    4) Al Green – Call Me


    5) Sam Cooke – Portrait Of A Legend, 1951-1964 SACD


    6) Marvin Gaye - What's Going On Deluxe Edition CD


    7) The Temptations - Anthology (the 2-disc Motown Anthology Series release)


    8) Stevie Wonder - Songs In The Key Of Life


    9) The Spinners – A One Of A Kind Love Affair – The Anthology


    10) Earth Wind & Fire – Greatest Hits, Vol. I (remaster)


    11) George Benson – Breezin’ DVD-Audio


    12) Rick James – Street Songs

    But what about Parliament/Funkadelic?


    13) Barry White - All-Time Greatest Hits or The Ultimate Collection


    14) Prince - Dirty Mind


    15) Babyface – Tender Lover


    16) Al Jarreau - Jarreau?

    This album, not unlike Patti Austin's Every Home Should Have One, is a nostalgic favorite of mine from the early 80s. But I'm debating whether it should have a place on a top 20 . . .


    17) Luther Vandross - The Best Of Luther Vandross: The Best Of Love


    18) Chic - Dance, Dance, Dance: The Best Of Chic


    19) Booker T. & the MGs - McLemore Avenue?


    20) Otis Redding - The Otis Redding Story?

    Btw, he’s already got the Special Edition of Thriller so that’s why that is not on the list. But what about Off the Wall?

    I welcome all reasoned recommendations, links and even some stunned posts of omission/inclusion indignation. This is very much a work in progress.

    Thanks in advance for your help all.

    Paul
     
  2. Phil A

    Phil A Producer
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    Mentioning Motown, unless I missed it, I saw no mention of the Four Tops, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Commodores/Lionel Ritchie to name a few.
     
  3. Phil A

    Phil A Producer
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  4. Paul.S

    Paul.S Producer

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    Phil:

    The Commodores are mentioned at #10. But I'm debating whether or not both that large, funk-inflected ensemble that was at its peak at the same time as EW&F deserves mention on a top 20 list versus EW&F versus both. Your thoughts?

    Any specific album recommendations for the other artists you mentioned?

    Other classic Motown artists are on the list so far. I'm concerned about over-representing that label given various debates that exist concerning it, such as that Berry Gordy conformed his artists into an aesthetic of making black music for white audiences and that Marvin Gaye was much more interested in libidinous and socially-conscious topics that Gordy didn't want to release. Heck, AllMusic.com's What's Going On album information listing recounts some lore in connection with the making of the record: Gordy didn't sign off on Gaye recording the album until after he heard the title cut. Gaye then recorded the rest of the album in 10 days.

    So I think I'd wanna include more Stax artists, such as Booker T & the MGs, before generally including more Motown. But again, I'm certainly open to more album-specific suggestions/arguments should you hopefully wish to make them.

    -p
     
  5. Rachael B

    Rachael B Producer

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    My suggestions would be:

    Harvey Mason's FUNK IN A MASON JAR

    Funkadelic's MAGGOT BRAIN

    Arthur Conley's SWEET SOUL MUSIC & MORE SWEET SOUL MUSIC

    Crown Heights Affair S/T

    Ray Parker & Raydio's ROCK ON

    Aretha Franklin's GOLD

    Wilson Pickett's GREATEST HITS

    Booker T. & the M.G.'s - McLEMORE AVENUE and anything else by them too like GREEN ONIONS

    Parliment's MOTHERSHIP CONNECTIN & AQUABOOGIE

    Otis Redding's SITTING ON THE DOCK OF THE BAY

    The Meters' ANTHOLOGY or CISSY STRUT

    Anything you can find by the original Bar-Kays, not the later replacement group

    Clifford Curry's SHE SHOT A HOLE IN MY SOUL

    anything by Issac Hayes, HOT BUTTERED SOUL or SHAFT would do

    Prince's DIRTY MIND

    Dr. John's RIGHT PLACE WRONG TIME & DESTITIVELY BONNAROO

    Chaka Khan...with or without Rufus, pick about any of her albums

    Other artists worth a look: L.T.D., Mar-Keys, Quazar, King Curtis, Earth, Wind & Fire, Action Band, Slave, and my brain has gone blank for now....
     
  6. Robert A. Willis Jr.

    Robert A. Willis Jr. Second Unit

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    If you are hit oriented or want compilations, Rhino is a good place to look. Also Time-Life has a number of good collections.

    You really need to list a top 150 or so albums to be representative.
     
  7. Mark Murphy

    Mark Murphy Supporting Actor

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    I'd take The Chronic off the list because its a hip hop album that redoes Parliament Funkadelic (might as well go with the original) and his Dr Dre.-2001 album is better.

    You can't complete that list without Otis Redding or Mary J. Blige's "My Life".
     
  8. Marvin

    Marvin Screenwriter

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  9. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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    Anything by Isaac Hayes

    Anything by Bobby Blue Bland

    Something by Funkadelic such as Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow

    You could do a lot worse than to include something by The Coasters

    If your friend has some "cheddar" to spend, the Stax/Volt label group has released several magnificent 9-CD box sets

    Anything off Rachael B's list, although I would recommend the Rufus/Chaka Kahn album that contains Tell Me Something Good
     
  10. David Coleman

    David Coleman Supporting Actor

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    Here's some on my list:

    MARVIN GAYE- WHAT'S GOIN ON, LET'S GET IT ON
    EARTH, WIND AND FIRE- THAT'S THE WAY OF THE WORLD, ALL N' ALL
    BROTHERS JOHNSON- LIGHT UP THE NIGHT
    MICHAEL JACKSON- OFF THE WALL
    HEATWAVE- TOO HOT TO HANDLE
    CAMEO- WORD UP
    GAP BAND- III
    SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE- THERE'S A RIOT GOIN' ON
    OHIO PLAYERS- FIRE
    SLAVE- STONE JAM
    AREHTA FRANKLIN- LADY SOUL
    THE SPINNERS- MIGHTY LOVE
    RICK JAMES- STREET SONGS
    ISLEY BROTHERS- THE HEAT IS ON, HARVEST FOR THE WORLD, 3+3
    JAMES BROWN- LIVE AT THE APOLLO
    LUTHER VANDROSS- NEVER TOO MUCH
     
  11. Rachael B

    Rachael B Producer

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    How did I forget the Average White Band??? 2st album, S/T, and WARMER COMMUNICATIONS are my fav's.
     
  12. Paul.S

    Paul.S Producer

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    Rachael: Thanks a ton for your funky, alternative list. More cross-talk later . . .

    Robert Willis: Any specific compilations that are well-reviewed with good liner notes, sound quality and song selection that you can recommend?

    Mark Murphy: Interesting--your comments about Chronic versus 2001. I've heard so much about the former being the sh*t. How do you feel about Doggystyle?

    Any specific Otis Redding album recommendations?

    I dig "Family Affair," but is Mary J. Blige really all that--to be included on a top 20 list of r&b/soul albums of all time? No More Drama is on my list of things to buy (I'm very tardy to the MJB party) and I note that Amazon reviewer Geoffrey Himes (never heard of him) calls her "the premier soul diva of the hip-hop generation," but daaayum. Can I get a witness and/or an "Amen!" on this?

    Marvin: Do you have any of the three compilations that you linked to? I looked at all of them, skimming their track listings, customer and editorial reviews. That Four Tops Essential Collection on Hip-O Records looks strong . . .

    -p
     
  13. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    It is... positively fantastic!

    A few suggestions:
    Earth, Wind and Fire -- there are two SACDs, both really wonderful sounding. I'd recommend "Gratitude", as it's the classic album of the two, but "Alive in 75" has slightly better sound quality. Still, I think "Gratitude" better fits your criteria.

    The Supremes -- like alot of the Motown acts, they were more a singles group than an album-oriented one, hence I think you'd be better off with a collection. Avoid the "Ultimate" one that's probably in all the stores right now, as it's horribly compressed and maximized (the one Marvin linked to above). The best I've heard (and the one that tends to get most of the audiophile recommendations) is from the Motown 2-disc Anthology series as seen here: http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p...0:rp59kectkq7v

    Isaac Hayes "Hot Buttered Soul" -- on SACD/CD hybrid from Mobile Fidelity, and still one of their best SACDs.

    Ray Charles -- For post-Atlantic years, go for the Sandstone/DCC D2-33079 Ray Charles - "Uh Huh His Greatest Hits" Yes, as seen on TV! And also as mastered by Steve Hoffman, this time with the tubes rig. The two single disc "His Greatest" releases that preceded this release was transferred with solid state equipment and sounds very good... but not as good as the "Uh Huh" release! For the Atlantic years, get the 3-disc boxset. I know you're shying away from compilations, and there's much to be said for getting Ray's individual records, but these two compilations are so fantastic and so inclusive as to be very nearly all you'd ever need.
     
  14. Paul.S

    Paul.S Producer

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    Rachael: Again, thank you for your contributions.

    I've tweaked the list to: add Aretha's Gold as a candidate for her in addition to Lady Soul (any thoughts here?), add McLemore Avenue (a good choice for my partner as he's a Beatles fan), and add Otis Redding (any album recommendations here? "Sitting On the Dock . . ." was a single, but not an album, no?).

    Also added Jarreau as a suggested album for Al Jarreau.

    I must confess that I'm a Crown Heights Affair neophyte. Perhaps I'd recognize one of their singles if I heard it. Just read the AllMusic.com band biography; Bertram Reid just died last December.

    Thx to you (and Rob G.) for the Isaac Hayes mention. I see MFSL's return to the market included a hybrid SACD of Hot Buttered Soul--might just have to add that to the list. (I could have sworn there was a DTS CD of this album also, but it's not listed at the DTS site . . .)

    Excellent mention of AWB. The tape of their eponymous album got a helluva lotta play from me back in the day; was/is a fave of my Dad's. "Pick Up the Pieces"!

    So this now puts me at 20 titles/artists, with question marks next to/alternate slots for Barry White, Parliament and The Commodores . . .

    -p
     
  15. Paul.S

    Paul.S Producer

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    David Coleman: Thanks very mich for your list/suggestions, David. Thx for mentioning Slave, the Ohio Players, Sly and the Family, Cameo and The Gap Band! Whodathunk the HTF was so funky! [​IMG]

    I'm spinning my Off the Wall SE CD now and am contemplating making a slot for it . . .

    Love That's the Way Of the World and have the remastered CD of that.

    Rich: Thank you! Eeexxcellent to hear that the Deluxe What's Going On does not disappoint. And I've been reading your posts for a long time and absolutely trust your opinion and value your input.

    I have the Gratitude remaster and the SACD is on my Wish List. A little disappointed that original engineer George Massenburg didn't do the 5.1 mix. But this is a strong, historic candidate. I think the Vol. I hits might give a better overview of the band's output . . .

    We cross-posted re Hot Buttered SACD--great tip though. (I wish MFSL would bring their SACD prices down a bit . . .)

    It looks like the Supremes title you link to at AllMusic is from the same "Anthology Series" line as The Temptations title Marvin links to?? Thx for the tip about the Ultimate Collection Supremes--that's exactly the kind of 411 I need on compilations.

    Off to go look up the Ray Charles titles you mentioned . . .

    -p
     
  16. Paul.S

    Paul.S Producer

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    Oh and Rachael (and everyone else): Thoughts/comments/feelings on the one Prince album that should be on such a list? I picked Sign O the Times based upon a friend's recommendation. Have the CD, but don't find it heart-stopping. Rachael I see your vote's for Dirty Mind . . .

    -p
     
  17. Marvin

    Marvin Screenwriter

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    Paul - I have those compilations. I really can't say if they're the best sound-wise as they're all I have. But the song selections are very good.
     
  18. David Coleman

    David Coleman Supporting Actor

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    I have to second AWB but specificall the album AWB (The White Album)!

    While at it how did I forget Stevie Wonder?? TALKING BOOK and INNVERVISIONS are definitely my favorites however I love SONGS IN THE KEY OF LIFE TOO!

    Let me throw in STYLISTICS: ROUND 2 and the SPINNERS: THE SPINNERS album. Top to bottom 2 excellent albums!!

    CAMEO's- SHE STRANGE is another classic one along with GAP BAND- IV.

    Hey for one's sensual pleasures can't overlook Marvin Gaye's- I WANT YOU!

    RUFUS and RUFUSIZED is a classic album of theirs and don't forget Chaka's- SO NAUGHTY, I FEEL FOR YOU along with her debut CHAKA KHAN.

    Let's also not forget CHIC- RISQUE and C'EST CHIC. Though they have been classified forever as disco they seriously had one of the greatest rhythmn sections ever in Bernard, Nile and Tony!!

    Of coure THE MAESTRO Barry White!! What would the world be if it never had I'VE GOT SO MUCH TO GIVE and STONE GON'.

    Lastly can't mention ISAAC HAYES without mentioning BLACK MOSES.
     
  19. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    Exactly right... the same series! These were compiled and mastered by Inglot and Hersch (I think... going on memory), and they did a fantastic job. I'm not crazy about the solo Diana Ross stuff at the end of disc 2, but I've never heard any of this material sound as warm and wonderful as it does on this release (but my experience is limited to CD issues). I searched this one out after buying the "Ultimate" compilation for my wife, only to be appalled when I heard it playing through my speakers... ugh, a nasty, congested mess! It may be a tad hard to find (not sure if it's officially OOP), but I seriously doubt you'll have to pay big eBay prices. I found my copy just this past year in the used bins of my local Newbury Comics, for less than when it was purchased new.

    The Sandstone/DCC release of Ray Charles "Uh-Huh His Greatest" will likely be the hardest one to find as the Hoffmanites are nuts about finding all the OOP discs he mastered... and this is certainly one of the best. I got mine for $25 on half-com on the day of Ray's death, and others still report finding them for cheap in used record stores. It's definitely worth seeking out. That Atlantic era 3-disc "Birth of Soul" one should be easy to get and not terribly expensive (I think I read that BMG sells it in case you're a member).
     
  20. David Coleman

    David Coleman Supporting Actor

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    Being an Al Jarreau fan let me throw out the following:

    BREAKIN' AWAY- really Al at his finest hitting the pop, jazz, r&b stratosphere. If not his best(I really like HEART'S HORIZON)it's definitely up there

    THIS TIME- what would the world be without SPAIN or ALONZO?
     

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