The tracks are with sing-along choruses, strutting horns and bright melodies that evoke the heyday of Philly soul, the mystic optimism of Earth Wind & Fire. Great old school, traditional production, solid raps by MC’s with fitting voices and good songwriting make this album an enjoyable listen from the moment you put down the turntable needle. Imani Vol. 1 is a great comeback for theses Hip Hop veterans. Instrumental Version of Imani Vol. 1 is also available at The Barbershop Music.
2. RETRO SOUL
Soul man Lee Fields has been revealing in the good foot funk of his inspiration James Brown. But on the latest album ‘Special Night’, those influences remain abundant, and the singer’s direction is different. It was co-produced by Big Crown’s Leon Michels and Thomas Benneck. Added special colours like reverb and psych effects add dimension to this record. The album was recorded in direct to analog tape. The title-track opener is a hit, B-3 organ, undulant horns, in-the-pocket drums, and an in-your-face bassline. His commitment to the lyrical and what it embraces is total. ‘Special Night’ may not be radically different, but it is deeper, wider, and variety in composition, production, and arrangement. Fields & the Expressions’ performances, as always, are nothing less than remarkable, making it a must for fans of retro soul. Lee Fields & The Expressions’ albums are available at The Barbershop Music.
3. THERE IS ONLY NOW
The 6th album from legendary hip-hop group Souls of Mischief, There Is Only Now, is a unique cinematic 90s crime tale of love, loss, and revenge. A conceptual collaboration with producer Adrian Younge and the first release on his freshly launched Linear Labs Records label. ‘There Is Only Now’ sees the Souls of Mischief crew members trading bars with a cast of hip-hop and soul luminaries. Souls of Mischief and Adrian Younge have created a hip-hop album like no other. The result of a special moment for all involved, ‘There Is Only Now’ proves that after two decades in the rap game hip-hop’s Fab Four remains committed to the expansion of their legacy as hip-hop innovators and pioneers. Check out There Is Only Now and it’s Instrumental Version at The Barbershop Music.
4. RAY RAY
Saadiq’s genius spin on this sound is almost too fresh for its own good, occasionally finding itself in an over-indulgent state, but what’s good about Stone Rollin’ is great, as Saadiq succeeds in creating an album that almost any music listener can get into. With Stone Rollin’, he broadens his outlook to take in various other R&B styles, without shifting more than a few years either way. In my opinion, it’s one of the best R&B/Soul album of all time.
Released at the tail end of the ’60s, ‘Hot Buttered Soul’ set the instance for how soul would evolve in the early ’70s, simultaneously establishing Isaac Hayes and the Bar-Kays as major forces within black music. With the release of this album, Motown suddenly seemed manufactured and James Brown a bit too theatrical. Surprising many, the album features only four songs. The first, ‘Walk on By’, is an epic 12-minute moment of true perfection, its trademark string-laden intro just dripping with sentimental sentiment, and the thumping drum beat and accompanying nasty bass lines, with the guitar’s heavy vibrato and the female background singers taking the song to even greater heights. It slowly eases you toward the climactic, almost-orchestral finale, a beautiful way to end one of soul’s timeless, landmark albums, the album that transformed Hayes into a lifelong icon. Get your copy of the repress if you have not, at The Barbershop Music.