Top 30 Southern Soul, Rhythm & Blues Albums Of 2008Southern Soul Deep Soul Soul Blues Retro-Soul Downhome Blues To be eligible albums must have been released 12/2007 to 12/2008. OR albums released in 2007 that peaked in 2008.
1. Clarence Dobbins "The Uprising" (CDS) LISTEN
Passionately-sung and performed Soul & Blues with real horns, bass, drums, organ, etc. Stax-like Soul Blues movers like "Can't Buy Me", "Blues Uprising" & "Matter Of Time", Soulful ballads like "Don't Give Up On Me", "Call On Me" & "Drown In My Own Tears". 100% real musicians. Dynamic.
2. Al Green "Lay It Down" (Blue Note) LISTEN
To me this is Green's third comeback attempt to R & B... First he was too contemporary and then he was just too retro. Now, you would be right if you said Green is still riding high (or "Hi"?) from that second comeback but the new "Lay It Down" has brilliantly managed to make Green sound like classic Al Green while simultaneously contemporary. It's an obvious labour of love by Green's co-producers ?uestlove and James Poyser. It's organic, it's classic and it's hip. Better yet most of the songs are Grade A, some even deserving a slot on the ultimate Al Green best of ("You've Got The Love I Need", "Stay With Me (By The Sea)", "What More Do You Want From Me"). Al Green is truly back on top (the album even crashed the Billboard Top 200 Albums at #9). It's time to scream for an encore.
3. Omar Cunningham "Time Served" (Soul 1st) LISTENHe's done it again. Actually better than before. A perfect Southern Soul single with "My Life". Like "Check To Check" and "I'll Get By" Cunningham has painted another aural picture sympathetic of the Everyman's life. This midtempo swayer is simply inspiring and all hooks. Brilliant! It will be hard to find a better song in 2008. "A lot of things I had to go without/I still find it hard to talk about". That line gives me chills every time. Like his previous LP's "Served" straddles the line between mainstream R & B and "Party Blues".
4. Earl Gaines "Nothin' But The Blues" (Ecko) LISTEN
"Nothin' But The Blues" manages to appeal to Southern Soul and 12-bar Blues fans alike. It opens with a ripping version of Gaines' signature song "24 Hours A Day". This is followed by the melodic slowie "Let's Call A Truce", containing one of Gaines' best vocals I've heard in years... some Downhome Blues ("Meat And Potatoes Man"). That's pretty much how it goes- a Blues number ("You Better Know Your Hole From Mine", "Cheat On Schedule") followed by a Soulful ballad ("Everything Sweet Reminds me Of You", "If I Could Do It All Over")...There's real horns (arranged by Harrison Calloway) and a live rhythm section (no programs) yet John Ward still makes it sound like an Ecko LP.
5. Leon McMullen "Can I Take You Out Tonight" (Sound Mindz) LISTEN
It took some digging to find but this throaty singer's debut LP ("Just A Few Words") convinced Deep Soul fans Leon McMullen was an artist to watch. He's got one of those raspy Southern Soul voices that remind you of the revered sixties soul scene and we Soul Music nerds can't get enough of that. Good news friends, McMullen returns with another set of Soul Blues grit, UAC (Urban Adult Contemporary) R & B and a bit of Sam Cooke shag...
6. Archie Love "Love Chronicles" (JEA/Loveland) LISTEN
In a word or two if you like J. Blackfoot you'll like raspy-toned Archie Love. Besides the vocal similarities the songs and tracks have the same clean and commercial sheen as Blackfoot's recent output. Love's a triple threat- singer, writer and producer and this is his best yet, establishing beyond a doubt he's a top Soul artist in the this genre. As regards "Love Chronicles" I doubted any track could match his magnificent "Should've Been There For You" (from his previous LP "Sincerely Yours") but this set is more consistent than the previous. The luscious ballads "Love is A Wonderful Thing", "Before A Judge" & "Standing On The Edge" are up there (way up there...okay more, WAY).
7. Stan Mosley "Man Up" (CDS) LISTENThey do make them like they used to when we're talking "true Soul voices". Stan Mosley, he sing not Pretty, but Gritty. Actually he can sing quite lovely too like on the knockout slow numbers "Mr. DJ" (a real summer slow jam for sure) and "Bitter With The Sweet". Hitmaker Floyd Hamberlin Jr. produced and wrote the 10 songs..."Man Up" is one hundred percent "Southern Soul" or "Party Blues". A large percentage of potential hits here.
8. Sang'n Clarence "If You Like It, I Love It" (Brittney) LISTEN
Writer/Producer/Superstar Mel Waiters has started up his relatively obscure Brittney Records imprint with this superb 9 song disc on Sang'N Clarence. Just like Mel's own discs the production is clearer and crisper than most of what you'll hear from the chitlin' circuit and he wasn't stingy about giving out very strong songs either.... there isn't a dud in the bunch.
9. El Willie "Situations" (MVP) LISTENThe E-to-the-L-to-the Willie has a gift for melody, expert vocal phrasing and clever lyrics. "Situations" is where it all comes together...While he is mostly known for his uber-mellow slow jams El does add a dancer or two to his repertoire... I fell in love with "Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo, Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Dee", a coasting finger snapper with a memorable refrain...our hero adds a little Hip Hop flavor to the hilarious "Dope Or Dogfood" (with lyrics from Bishop James E. Bryant). Here El' reproves a foolish youngin' who's trippin' and wasting his life. Funkay! I've also grown to dig El's baritone voice... I'd consider him a top notch singer. El's cool as all get out.
10. The Rhythm All-Stars "s/t" (Jomar/Silk) LISTEN
The amazing vocals of one-time Arista Recording artist/Gerald LeVert-produced Geoff McBride are the highlight of this fine set of Southern Soul originals and covers. The Memphis-inspired movers "Stuck" & "She's Powerful" and the aching ballad "I'll Work For You" have all received extensive airplay throughout the South and in the UK. (Footnote: The now hard-to-find set was repackaged and self-released as "Takin' Off" later in the year and McBride is no longer with the group)
11. Will Easley "Sweet Sexy Soul" (CDS) LISTEN
Holy moly! what a singer! Where had this guy been? Hands down best debut of the year for sure. The club joint "Loop The Loop" is getting a lot of action but it's the slow jams that steal the show. Easley is magic on "Wantcha Back", "Your Love is Amazing" and "If I Let You Got". Most of this disc is ripe for mainstream Urban AC stations but without payola who knows if it'll get the chance.
12. Sheba Potts-Wright "I'm A Bluesman's Daughter" (Ecko) LISTEN
To those in the know the title of Sheba's new disc ("I'm A Bluesman's Daughter") is a reference to Memphis blues man (and himself a former Ecko artist) Dr. Feelgood Potts, father to the Southern Soul chanteuse Sheba. Now, Sheba may be blues pedigree but she's better known for her sassy and sexy shuffle-bumpers like "I Need A Cowboy To Ride My Pony", "Cruise Control" and "I Can Hear Your Macaroni"...Track 3 is a splendid ballad called "Why Am I Still Lonely", featuring a superb arrangement of synth strings, organ, electric piano and bass guitar. This ranks up there with Denise LaSalle's output for the label. ...The quality holds up throughout (the "party blues dancer" "Where's The Party At?", & rote "Mississippi Man" are cookie-cutter songs for the label)...This may be her best collection in her still new career.
13.Nellie 'Tiger' Travis "I'm A Woman" (CDS) LISTEN Ms. Travis is...the Gladys Knight of Southern Soul. Of course in her hometown of Chicago she's mostly known as a 12-bar Blues belter who plays sings several days a week. But in the chittlin' circuit she's becoming a huge favorite... like the hilarious ditty "Slap Yo' Weave Off" and the booming, anthem "I'm A Woman" which is the best song about female empowerment I've heard in years... two knockout ballads. "Don't Talk To Me" is a n emotional tornado sung by a scorned woman and "Running On Empty" a devastating number about a dying marriage. Travis is a powerhouse on the microphone.Also included is a terrific duet ballad with soulman Stan Mosley ("Who Knows You")
Ms. Travis is...the Gladys Knight of Southern Soul. Of course in her hometown of Chicago she's mostly known as a 12-bar Blues belter who plays sings several days a week. But in the chittlin' circuit she's becoming a huge favorite... like the hilarious ditty "Slap Yo' Weave Off" and the booming, anthem "I'm A Woman" which is the best song about female empowerment I've heard in years... two knockout ballads. "Don't Talk To Me" is a n emotional tornado sung by a scorned woman and "Running On Empty" a devastating number about a dying marriage. Travis is a powerhouse on the microphone.Also included is a terrific duet ballad with soulman Stan Mosley ("Who Knows You")
14. Willie Hill "I'm A Man On A Mission" (Ifgam) LISTEN
The phrase "long awaited new album" is an overused cliché that actually fits the new Willie Hill quite rightly. See, it was all the way back in 2005 when the first single off this LP was released. That track, "Man On A Mission", was a moderate Southern Soul hit that portended a good Theodis Ealey-like batch of tunes...the truly long-awaited new CD by Willie Hill has dropped...and it lives up to the promise. It leads off with the above-mentioned title track, includes the terrific "Friendly Reunion" and a slew of good 'uns. Mr Theodis Ealey has produced and presented an album on Hill not unlike his own output: Keyboard-driven, upbeat bumpers and Blues- not too polished but with a bouncy bottom.
15. The Soul Children "Still Standing" (JEA) LISTEN
You could just as easily called this the new J. Blackfoot album because the throaty one sings lead on nearly all the tracks, often joined by Queen Ann Hines, Norman Wets , Cassandra Graham and a cameo by Toni Green. Both Blackfoot and West were part of the original Stax Records line up. Hines and Graham are standing in the roles of Anita Lewis and Shelbra Bennet. The foursome logged 11 charting singles on Billboard's R & B charts from 1968 to 1978, most notably "Hearsay" and "I'll Be The Other Woman", which both crossed over to the pop charts as well (at #44 and #36 respectively). Blackfoot (born John Colbert) hasn't lost any of his powerful rasp and fairly tears it up on the yearning ballads "Long Ride Home" and "Love You For Life" (featuring the dynamite Toni Green) and "More Than A Woman"...This is a solid "Modern/Retro" whatever you-wanna-call-it Soul album.
16. Gregg A. Smith "Triple Play Swing" (G Man) LISTEN
Radio personality Gregg A. Smith, like one Frank-O Johnson, I've always found as perfectly strong singers/artists that could hang tough with all the other records they spin while a DJ...the third of the trilogy is here with the plaintively-titled "Who's Romeo & Jez". All three follow a similar pattern: Smith narrates the story in his deep, sexy tone atop a a bubbling musical backdrop punctuated by the sweetly-sung refrain. Having the full trilogy here is mist welcome but it isn't even the highlight of the album overall. The one-two "live" punch of "Angel" and "Stand By Me" are perhaps the best ten-plus minutes of his career. Smith can sang fo' sho. "Angel" will please fans of the great one Bobby 'Blue' Bland. Speaking of Bland the slow burning blues cuts "Trouble" and "One Day At A Time" can give the legend a run for his money these days. Bottom line: Gregg A. Smith deserves his propers and here's to hoping this album finds a audience.
17. Bobby Wayne "Soul Station" (Bonedog) LISTENI've been looking forward to the new Bobby Wayne ever since I first listened to his ridiculously good last disc "Hit That Thang!". That masterpiece would be hard to duplicate in terms of song, sound and soul and while "Soul Station" isn't a duplicate, it's simply splendid and an essential purchase for fans of real Soul Blues by a great excess. Even with a street date of January 1 2008 it will endure as one of the best of the year. That locomotive bass, smacking drums, blaring horns and Bobby's unassuming voice on the title track (and opener) instantly brought a smile to my face. Stax Records lives...To sum up "Soul Station" for you in two words: TUNE IN.
18. Wendell B "Time To Relax...Time, Love & Relationships" (Smoothway Ent.) LISTENThe hyperbolic intro and too many interludes may stymie some of the joy here but Wendell B is an incredible singer. Yes they call him the "new Luther Vandross" and so on but all hype aside truth is you can't help but be captured by the man's Soul. The drop dead fantastic first single "She Didn't Have Ta Hurt Ya Boy Like That" has been out for a few months making this an eagerly anticipated release. I really can't prattle on enough about how great this track is. Perhaps that's why he put it out way before the album was ready. It just couldn't wait? In fact his holiday outing "Save A Little Room For Me" dropped inbetween. Whatever it may be this track alone is worth full price.
19. Kenne' Wayne "You're The Best" (Goodtime) LISTEN
The "Licka Sticka" is back with a mainstream-leaning collection of slick Soul/R & B. Already the title track is climbing the Adult Urban Contemporary airplay charts, sounding like 80s era Lenny Williams... three of these written by the super talented Mr Sam (aka 'Mr Sam) and Ezra 'EZ Rock' Williams. The pair are credited with seven cuts while Ves Garrett provided four. Garrett wrote the bumps "Is There A Party In Here", "Get Cha Some" & "One For The DJ", as well as silky slow jam "No Love In The Club". Grade A material...The hands down winner though is Fallie/EZ Rock's "Georgia Pine" where Wayne unleashes one of his best and most assured vocals to date.
20. Rue Davis "Return Of A Legend" (Boomtown) LISTEN
The boastful title is true, albeit in a limited sense. Davis has never scraped the national charts nor sold enough records to catch the attention of the I.R.S. but in the so-called chitlin' circuit he is indeed legendary. Perhaps he's mostly known for his uncanny ability to sing like Johnnie Taylor, ZZ Hill, Al Green and other legends. A reality highlighted on his out of print Avanti CD "Sings With Friends" ...This time Davis gives the producer chores to someone else, one Carl Marshall...vintage modern Soul. Like putting on your favorite tube socks on a cold day it just warms you up. "I'm Giving Up The Streets" is another midtempo roller with Davis settle down and "staying home with my baby". This is followed by the knockout slowie "I Promise". Pure Johnnie Taylor supreme (sorry Rue we know you are your own man)... He's never really gone away but this still feels like a triumphant return.
21. Lee "Shot" Williams "Shot From The Soul" (CDS) LISTEN
"Shot From The Soul" starts off with four winners in a row. The Sam Cooke rhythm of "Country Woman" hit my ears like a welcome mat. Shot says "Now I got a woman/Her name is Sally Mae Brown/She lives just outside the city/In a little old country town". He proceeds to explain why he loves them country woman. They treat you so sweet, cook you up something nice on the stove and they'll "love you to the rooster crows!". Next is the anthem "It's Friday (Time To Get Paid)". It's one of those instant classic weekend songs that you can't help but get down with..."Shot From The Soul" is classic Lee Shot Soul (and Blues).
22. Marvin Sease "Who's Got The Power" (Malaco) LISTEN
With each new Marvin Sease disc you know what you're getting: Funky workouts with Sease's philosophy on the birds and the bees ("The Power Of Coochie"), old school Soul balladry ("I'm Coming Home", "Denying Our Love") and midpaced Memphis movers ("She's My Woman", "I Can't Let You Go"). The only question then becomes how good is the material. Well these thirteen Sease originals will satisfy any fan of the genre. There may not be a new stone classic or a hit as catchy as, say "Sit Down On It", but there's plenty of greatness. The 60s-styled "Denying Our Love" is as close to Otis Redding as you're gonna get nowadays. As I've said before Sease may be known for his sex shtick but he's a master of Deep Soul slowies.
23. David Brinston "Party Time" (Ecko) LISTEN
Brinston's previous Ecko release ("Here I Go Again") went pretty much ignored upon it's release but it was quite good. Perhaps superior to this new one. Things start off strong with the bumpin', if lyrically-lame "I Just Love Woman", the current single "Sometimes You Win Some", "Crazy 'Bout You Baby" and "Hard Working Woman"... put a live band behind Brinston on this album and it's pure Memphis Soul.
24. Ms. Jody "I Never Take A Day Off" (Ecko) LISTENTo me Ms. Jody is Peggy Scott-Adams-lite. She has a similar tone and style just softer. That's not meant as a knock against "Jody" who has struck gold with the Southern soul steadies. Her last Ecko album has barely started to fade before we are treated to another one and it's slightly better than it's predecessor... The Chitlin' themes are all here. The clever "Energizer Bunny" is a cousin to Shirley Brown's "I Got To Sleep With One Eye Open" in that her man is a nympho. A simple Soul swayer with an especially solid vocal from the female Jody. Her man just "goes on and on and on and on." Can't imagine too many women complaining about that!
25. Pookie Lane "Southern Woman" (Allison) LISTENLike the recent debut by Bigg Joe we have Jerome "Pookie" Lane making his introduction with a familiar synth-pushed Southern Soul hit (the title track) but turning out to be a superb boudoir balladeer rather than your cookie cutter party singer. Commencing at track 2 (the gorgeous "Love The Way We Used To"), the Pookie man croons like there's no tomorrow and he's got one night left with a beautiful woman! Smooth silk pajama slow jams like "Knockin'", "Moments", "Come Into My Bedroom", "Work It Out" and "Pretty Brown Girl" will make the ladies swoon. Cool Rhythm & Jazz flourishes on "On And On" keep things from getting monotonous. The sentimental closer "The Tribute" remembers Johnnie Taylor, Tyrone Davis, Little Milton and all the greats who've shed their mortal coil. Nearly eight minutes of soulful testifying. Pookie Lane is for all of us who love the human singing voice first and foremost in music.
26. Willie Clayton "Soul & Blues" (Malaco) LISTEN
Second new Clayton CD of the year offers up more of his bluesy-tined Soul, true to the unimaginative title. On the Geirge Jackson-penned "I Feel A Cheatin' Coming On" he sings "Aretha's lost all respect for me and Millie J want no drama at all. Latty won't help me straighten it out and Bobby Womack won't return my call". Willie can't blame them cause he's weak and when he sees a "sexy little thing I feel a cheating coming on". Yeah, nothing new here. But Willie's fans won't mind one bit. That classic voice gets some good production from Vick Allen, Mike Snoddy, Donell "Showcase" Taylor and hisself.
27. David G "Southern Soul With A Twist" (Laryan) LISTENDavid G(eorge) has a meaty Soul voice with a little Johnnie Taylor and Otis Clay tones and that's enough to recommend this CD. Actually, it contains a mid-to-high end Southern Soul programming to go along with it. The title track is a dancer reminiscent of JT while "D.G. Shuffle" captures some of that Sir Charles Jones style (G also covers Jones' smash "is There Anybody Lonely"). Both are "party Blues" cuts on par with whatever's out there. The bumpers "Private Party", "Ooh Yeah" and "Number One Lady" are good choices for radio. The latter is pure Mel Waiters if you ask me...Bottom line this is as good as any Sir Charles, Wilson Meadows or T.K. Soul disc you own.
28. Al Lindsey "So In Love" (Pulsating Music) LISTEN Back in 2005 husky-voiced Al Lindsey appeared out of nowhere with a fresh (and refreshing sound) for the Southern Soul genre with "Caught"... convinced Lindsey to focus more on that sultry balladry and "So In Love" does just that. The tracks are mostly original but the centerpiece of the record is his dynamite cover of Leroy Hutson's "So In Love". Great arrangement. Lindsey sings it like he's been doing it since childhood (actually he has). Another slow jammy, Lindsey's own "Call Me", ain't no punk either. A gentle creeper, synth strings and a sexy vocal to boot. Hey when you're singin' a song about a "Nubian queen wearin' those painted on jeans" you know you're gonna sing it with feelin'! Deserves to be a hit. Would fit on mainstream R & B radio too. On the dancefloor tip comes "Let's Take A Chance" and "Pop It Shake Work It", featuring producer Simeo's knack for bass bottomed bumpers.
29. Reggie P "Your Love Is A Bad Habit" (Rude Boy) LISTEN
"Your Love Is A Bad Habit" may only have seven actual songs (plus 1 remix and a glorified intro, "Witness") but most deliver, staring with the buoyant "I've Got That Feeling"; a serious nod to Sir Charles Jones and a surefire hit. Better though is the bluesy title cut, an emotional ballad with an impassioned vocal...The cat can sing a soulful ballad too evidenced by the Lenny Williams-like slowies "No More Tears" and "Unforgettable Dreams".
30. Mose Stovall "Groove U" (Soul 1st) LISTEN
Plenty of Southern Soul jams on here superior to the single "Groove U Baby" (especially good news for those who do like the song). The midpaced bumps "Been There Done That" and "Blue" followed by the funky "Don't Stop The Music" cut the mustard for me. "Don't Stop" has some slapping drums, a killer bassline and Stovall singing with a vocodor. Can someone say "club joint"?