Pastel Blues – Nina Simone (1965)

Pastel Blues - Nina Simone (1965)

The lounge leanings of Nina’s previous albums are completely stripped away and here Nina Simone is presented as a soulful, bluesy, gritty, serious artist. Her silky timbre, her huge range, and all the devastating emotion she packs into classics like Sinnerman and Strange Fruit makes her one of the most powerful singers I’ve ever heard. She can do anything she feels like with her voice, too – she gets sultry with Tell Me More and More and Then Some, romantic on Be My Husband, and playfully nostalgic on Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out. She had it all, really.

Choice Cut: Sinnerman
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Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963 – Sam Cooke (1985)

Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963 - Sam Cooke (1985)

The greatest live album of all time. A celebration of life, love, and everything good and right about the universe. Sam Cooke’s singing is full of grit and passion and flair and all sorts of personality, turning something that could’ve been really cheesy (like how he says “Oh, I like this song!” in the middle of Sentimental Reasons just sort of offhand) into pure greatness. The audience participation in that song also enforces how FANTASTIC this album makes you feel. If you’re into soul, you need to hear this album, to hear the guy who invented it at his best.

Choice Cut: Chain Gang
Buy Album: Amazon (MP3 · CD · Vinyl) · iTunes MP3

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All ‘n All – Earth, Wind, and Fire (1977)

All 'n All - Earth, Wind, and Fire (1977)


Choice Cut

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Amazon MP3 · Amazon CD

If you are new to R&B and looking for easy starting points, this album should be added to your list. I was new to R&B when I first listened, and I had no problem getting into the songs on this album. The album starts off very strong with two of my favorite R&B songs of all time, “Serpentine Fire” and “Fantasy”. All ‘n All is an album of many strengths, and the elements of R&B, soul, jazz, and funk shine through beautifully to create a masterpiece in the R&B catalogue.

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