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Anita Baker: Rapture – 1986

Label: Elektra
Produced by: Michael J. Powell & Anita Baker
Anita Baker’s second solo release. 8 strong mellow songs and a very good production by Michael J. Powell

Blue Magic: Soulful Spell (Best of) – 1996
Label: Atlantic/Rhino
Produced by: Various
R&B vocal quintet formed in Philadelphia and signed to Atlantic Records in 1973. They hit the Top 40 of the R&B singles chart with their first three 45s before breaking through and crossing over with "Sideshow" in 1974, which went gold, topped the R&B charts and became a Top Ten pop hit. Their next single "Three Ring Circus", made the R&B Top Ten and the pop Top 40. They are all included on this great 20 track "best of".

Johnny Bristol: Bristol’s Creme – 1977
Label: Blues Interactions Japan – PCD 2727
Produced by: Johnny Bristol
A very strong mellow soul album. Sounds like a mid 70’s cross between Barry White and Marvin Gaye. Very hard to find on CD.

Curtis Mayfield: The Best of – 2000 [2 CD set]
Label: Charly
Produced by: Various
Judged merely by his records alone, the man’s legacy is enormous. As the leader of the Impressions, he recorded some of the finest soul vocal group music of the 60’s. As a solo artist in the 70’s, he helped pioneer funk, and helped introduce hard-hitting urban commentary into soul music. "Gypsy Woman," "It’s All Right," "People Get Ready," "Freddie’s Dead," and "Superfly" are merely the most famous of his many hit records. He wrote most of his material, at a time when that was not the norm for soul performers. He was among the first, – if not the very first, – to speak openly about African-American pride and community struggle in his compositions. He was a key architect of Chicago soul, penning material and working on sessions by Windy City soulsters like Gene Chandler, Jerry Butler and Major Lance. Mayfield was also an excellent guitarist.

He left the Impressions to begin a solo career in 1970. His first few singles boasted a harder, more funk-driven sound; singles like "(Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Gonna Go" found him confronting ghetto life with a realism that had rarely been heard on record. He really didn’t hit his artistic or commercial stride as a solo artist until Superfly, his soundtrack to a 1972 blaxploitation film. Yet Mayfield’s irrepressible falsetto vocals, uplifting melodies, and fabulous funk-pop arrangements gave the oft-moralizing material a graceful strength that few others could have achieved. For all the glory of his past work, Superfly stands as his crowning achievement.

On August 14, 1990, he became paralyzed from the neck down when a lighting rig fell on top of him at a concert in Brooklyn, NY. Curtis Mayfield died at the age of 57, 26. december 1999.

The Dells: Passionate Breezes (Best of) – 1995
Label: Mercury/Polygram
Produced by: Eugene Record & Carl Davies
This Chicago quintet formed in 1955 have made only one personnel change in their entire professional career. Perhaps that’s why the venerable R&B vocal group can boast such a remarkably consistent track record. Their style has shifted from doo wop and soul to disco and urban contemporary. Their harmony remains as striking as ever, with Marvin Junior’s earthshaking lead enduring as the group’s focal point.

Dramatics: Me and Mrs. Jones (Best of) – 1994
Label:  MCA
Produced by: Various
Popular Detroit R&B vocal aggregation that scored numerous hits for Volt and maintained their momentum through the disco era. The early Dramatics hits for Volt lived up to their billing with the emphatic vocals of Ron Banks powering the funky "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get," their first big-seller in 1971, and the R&B chart-topping ballad "In the Rain" the next year. The quintet was just as successful later in the decade, signing with ABC in 1975 and scoring repeatedly throughout disco-fever days.

Ephraim Lewis: Skin – 1992
Label:  Elektra
Produced by: Kevin Bacon (?) & Jonathan Quarmby
Excellent and only release from this guy, who sadly died in a car crash a couple of years ago.

Gamble & Huff: The Story of Brotherly Love – (The Philly Story)  (3 CD Box set) – 1997
Label: PIR/Sony
Produced by: Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff
Great tribute to the excellent 70’s Philly sound. Classic production work by Gamble & Huff. Featuring acts like O’Jays, Harold Melvin, Intruders, MFSB, Billy Paul and the Three Degrees.

Marvin Gaye: What’s Going On – 1971
Marvin Gaye: Here My Dear – 1978
Label: Motown
Produced by: Marvin Gaye
Probably the best album ever recorded! A must in every record collection! With classics like "What’s Going On", "Mercy Mercy Me" and "Inner City Blues". You should definitely go for the 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition release. A double CD set with 26 (!) bonus cuts containing the early original Detroit mix of the entire album and 12 prev. unreleased live tracks from The Kennedy Center (1972). Highly recommended is also his very much underrated double LP (1 CD) "Here My Dear" from 1978. A 13 track testimony about his marriage and divorce from Anna, sister of Motown founder Berry Gordy.

Millie Jackson: Lovingly Yours – 1976
Millie Jackson: For Men Only –  1980
Label: Spring/Polydor 
Produced by: Brad Shapiro
Millie Jackson’s uncensored raps have earned her a reputation as an X-rated soul artist who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. The Georgia native moved to New Jersey as a teenager, making her debut in 1970 for MGM, then moved to Spring Records the next year and embarked on a long string of soul hits. Also check out Millie’s "Totally Unrestricted – Best of" from 1997.

Kenny Lattimore: Kenny Lattimore – 1996
Kenny Lattimore: From the Soul of Man – 1998

Label: Columbia
Produced by: Various
Marvin Gaye meets Donny Hathaway on these two great mellow soul albums from Kenny Lattimore. His latest, "From The Soul Of Man" is excellent produced by himself and co-producer Colin Gayle and Lattimore sings with all the emotion and soul of his heroes Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway. Lattimore had at least a hand in writing most of 14 tracks on "From the Soul of Man" (incl. 1 unlisted bonus track), but he also made some inspired choices of material to cover. His version of Al Cooper’s «I Love More Than You’ll Ever Know» (a tribute to the version by his idol Hathaway) is a killer, and doing George Harrison’s «While My Guitar Gently Weeps» as soul, sounds great. 

Manhattans: Kiss and Say Goodbye (Best of) – 1995
Label: Columbia/Legacy 
Produced by: Bobby Martin & Leo Graham
19 tracks of great vocal harmonies! A venerable soul quintet from New Jersey, whose career has spanned the dawn of soul and the death of disco, although they have steadfastly preferred ballads over the years. Led initially by George Smith, who died in 1970, the Manhattans first charted in 1965 with "I Wanna Be (Your Everything)." After a string of solid R&B sellers on Carnival and DeLuxe, Gerald Alston replaced the late Smith and the group moved to Columbia. In 1976 they struck pay dirt with the elegant platinum-selling ballad "Kiss and Say Goodbye," which topped both the pop and soul lists. Several more huge R&B hits preceded their uplifting 1980 gold record "Shining Star," and still more followed.

Maxwell: Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite – 1996
Maxwell: Embrya – 1998
Maxwell: Now – TBA summer 2001

Label: Sony
Produced by: Musze
Marvin Gaye of the 90’s! Definitely two of the best soul albums for years! The upcoming album "Now" is scheduled for release summer 2001.

O’Jays: Collectors’ Items – 1977
Label: Philadelphia International Rec.
Produced by: Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff
Great 14 track CD compilation. Featuring the now classic "Backstabbers", "For the Love of Money" and "I love Music". Originally released as a 14 track double LP. The CD was out in 1990, but on some pressings the track "Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby" has been removed. Excellent Philly Sound production by Gamble & Huff. Highly recommendable is also their 1978 release "So Full of Love", containing the hit "Used to Be My Girl".

Sade: Diamond Life – 1984
Produced by: Robin Millar
Label: Epic
Maybe not real soul, but nevertheless a great mellow jazz/soul/pop album. For more info, check my very own tribute to Helen FolaSADE Adu.

Spinners: Best of vol.1 & 2 – 1993 & 1997
Produced by: Thom Bell and others
Label: Atlantic/Rhino
Two excellent CD compilations from this vocal group. Both with 16 tracks spinning from between 1970 and 1980. Featuring the classic tracks "It’s a Shame", "Could It Be I’m Falling in Love", "I’ll be Around" and "The Rubberband Man". Lead vocals on most of the songs belongs to Philippe Wynne, who died in 1984. You should also check out the 2 disc set "One Of A Kind – The Anthology".

Surface: 3 Deep – 1990
Produced by: David Conley & David Townsend
Label: Columbia
Their 3rd release. Excellent songs and crisp production. Where are they now? Anybody? (Beware of reggae group also called Surface).

Temptations: For Lovers Only – 1995
Produced by: Richard Perry
Label: Motown
Great ballads-only album from the Temptations. You should of course also check out some of the many "best of" releases over the years. Formed in Detroit in 1961. Thanks to their fine-tuned choreography, and even finer harmonies, the Temps have been the definitive male vocal group of the last 3 decades, however the 90’s were marked by tragedy: after touring with Eddie Kendricks and Dennis Edwards as a member of the "Tribute to the Temptations" package tour, David Ruffin died on June 1, 1991 after overdosing on cocaine, 50 years old. In 1992, Kendricks died at the age of 52 of lung cancer, and on February 23, 1995, 52-year-old Melvin Franklin passed away after suffering a brain seizure.

Gunnar Homdrum, Oslo, Norway – © 1995-2001