We’re going to take a little departure from “Free” Music Friday this week.
I’m sure you all are tired of hearing me rave about what a fantastic year for music 2010 was. But please indulge me this one last time, as I present to you my list of the Best of 2010 soulful albums that were for sale.
Let me caveat this by saying: I’m not normally a John Legend fan. But this release with the legendary Roots crew defined, to me, what an “album” truly should be. Nothing over produced, tracked mostly live and with NO bleeding Auto-Tune. This entire release is a well thought-out, meticulously executed journey through some of the best protest music of the 20th century. John Legend’s vocals are truly inspired, and the combination of him with this — the greatest working band in the world — is timeless and noteworthy. These are not just songs. They’re moments. Their rendition of Bill Wither’s “I Can’t Write Left Handed” gives me chills. Easily Record of the Year, for me.
Even though I actually purchased this record, the good news is that it’s now FREE at their BandCamp page! If you’re looking for some great hip-hop jazzy grooves under some mellow and cool lyrics, look no further. This 12-track homage to your local coffee house is truly dope. And the best part is that they’ve also included the entire album in instrumental form as well, giving you twice the bang for the buck.
What can you say about this record that hasn’t already been said? Although Erykah made us wait for a minute for this release, the end result paid off in kind. Even though this record is a little more sample-heavy than I’m accustomed to from Ms. Badu, it truly is a great body of work. Each track is bangin’ and memorable, and Erykah’s delivery is as crisp and soulful as ever.
This is the first of three major releases from the Foreign Exchanged camp this year, and in my opinion the strongest. Zo! is truly a virtuoso, and Sunstorm is proof in the pudding. Not only expertly produced and played, the songwriting on this release is top notch. Look for instant dance-floor classic “This Could Be The Night,” with guest appearances by Eric Roberson and Darien Brockington.
This record came as a pleasant surprise to me. I hadn’t heard of this awesome trio from New Zealand, but once I started hearing their singles pop up on some of my favorite podcasts, I was hooked. Fronted by Mara TK, who channels his inner Marvin Gaye better than most, this release is permiated with heavy-hiitting lo-fi grooves.
The newest from the Grammy-nominated Foreign Exchange is a solid and consistent example of how powerful a hit-making force this collective is. Doubly pleasant is hearing the evolution from previous albums of Phonte Coleman; his journey from a simple rapper to a true vocalist. Even though this release my not have been as well received critically as Leave it All Behind, it was still one I returned to throughout the later part of the year.
This scorcher was another release that I couldn’t stop listening to. The title “Everything in Time” refers to how much longer the project took DJ Center to complete than planned, but the final result was well worth it. Pay special attention to his remake of “You’ve Got The Love” with the amazing Gretchen Parlato on vocals.
Yet another Foreign Exchange release (yes, they were busy this year), proving that there truly is no stopping this new soulful creative force. Not only is Yahzarah beautiful, but she can sing her ass off. There’s a lot of heat on this record. If you haven’t heard it, you owe it to yourself to check it out.
Another pleasant surprise that I stumbled upon. Even though this is only an EP, it’s well worth checking out. King is a fantastic composer, producer and vocalist. There is much groove to be had here.
Even from the cover and title of this record, you can tell there’s going to be a lot of Stevie Wonder influence here. And Dorian Wright manages to pull it off in a way that’s truly original and surprisingly non-derivative. There’s some excellent writing and production here, and Dorian Wright’s voice is top notch. Highly recommended.
I was drawn to this record by the single “5 O’Clock Stuff” featuring Miles Bonny (next entry). But I ended up really enjoying the entire record. Some really kicking grooves and production. It was great driving music in the car.
Miles Bonny is truly a blue-eyed soul brother. He comes from a very raw and honest place, both vocally and in his songwriting. This release is chock full of groove and soul. Keep an eye on this guy.
I’m not a fan of this Retro Chic thing that’s happening in Pop music right now. It comes off to me as gimick-y and unoriginal. But every once in a while it’s done right, and that’s what Aloe Blacc’s been able to accomplish. He’s got a great vocal delivery, and these songs are good enough to go head to head with some old school Stax stuff.
Ok, granted, this was not a US release, and technically it wasn’t for sale. But I think it warrants recognition. If you were clever enough to pick up this record, you know that the Purple One is still at the top of his game. Heaters like “Sticky Like Glue” make this release a must-have for any die-hard fan of the funk.
I know what you’re going to say. “Phil, this is a Jazz album.” Well, yes, it is. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that this guy has one of the most soulful voices I heard this year. With amazing songs like “1960 What?” and “Wisdom,” I couldn’t not include this on my Best Of list.
Again, another record that borders on Jazz. And again, José James has come to prominence as a fantastic new soulful voice. The sheer power of “Lay You Down” proves that this guy can run the gamut in many musical circles.
Songs from this record kept popping up on a lot of podcasts I listened to. Finally to the point where I just had to have the whole record. There’s some great soulful, housey grooves to be had on this record as well as fantastic performances by Roy Ayers and Carleen Anderson.
Another powerhouse of a female vocalist. Great songs, great production, great performances. There’s a lot to love on this record. Check out her fantastic duet with Darien.
Ben l’Oncle Soul
Who’da thunk the French could belt out some killer soul? But it’s a fact, and you owe it to yourself to pick up this release.
California groovers Orgone hit with a solid batch of hard hitting grooves. Go get it!
AND A QUICK PLUG…
I also had a record come out this year. And since it’s my list, I’m just going to put it here and hope you support it by giving it a download. Happy New Year, Y’all!