The past few years have seen an explosion of new Afrobeat albums. All those hard driving rhythms need to be unearthed and documented in one place. Just in case no one else has done it, here it is…
First I’m going to feature a few of my favorite albums, and then I’ll list the rest of them. All of them you need to check out.
Starting with Tony Allen’s new album, The Source (2017).
This album is raw and electrifying the whole way through, featuring not only Mr. Allen’s drum set, but also full-filling a life long dream of recording on Blue Note Records. This album is truly unique, mixing in Jazz with Afrobeat and more traditional African music. The Source also has Allen looking back at his early influences on the drum-kit, Art Blakey, Max Roach, etc…, and pays a fitting tribute to them. Employing a who’s who of Paris Jazz musicians The Source will leave you in awe of what a 76 year old veteran of the drum set can craft.
…check out this killer photo collection of Tony Allen here.
Speaking of the forefathers of the genre Femi Kuti has a new joint as well.
Femi Kuti-One People One World (2018)
I don’t think I really need to express the importance of the message on this one. With titles like Africa Will Be Great Again, Femi speaks about the future he see’s for his people. Not only does he touch on Africa but he acknowledges the entire world, imploring us to find our collective humanity and live together in unity.
…and here are a ton more to keep you busy.
Antibalas-Where the Gods are in Peace (2017)
Of course a necessary place to start digging is with Antibalas’ new album. Straight forward, politically motivated Afrobeat in the direct vain of Fela Kuti’s classic records.
Here Lies Man-S/T (2017)
“What if Black Sabbath played Afrobeat?” This is the question that Marcos Garcia of the Afrobeat collective Antibalas asked before undertaking his new project Here Lies Man, a question we didn’t know needed asking but are damn glad he did.
This dynamic offering is the brainchild of producer/composer/multi-instrumentalist David Nesselhauf. Citing the creative experimentation of kraut rockers Can and using vintage recording techniques and instruments this album has a unique sound. Combining new music and pop sensibilities with Afrobeat and striking rhythms makes it a great album to listen to and dance! Also keep your eyes peeled for the new album coming out soon!
Roberto Lopez-Criollo Electrik (2017)
A really great collage of latin, pop, afrobeat, and funk on display here. Read more here.
This very interesting album is the original soundtrack to the documentary film of the same name.
-From the Deep (2016)
The Heliocentrics are a group that is constantly hard at work. Whether they are working together as a unit or employing the help of other talented musicians, they are experimenting with the genre and pushing it further into the future. Collageing together ambient sounds from the environment, and rattling around various rhythm instruments, helps to push this experimental vibe farther along. Strictly speaking not really Afrobeat, but there is enough influence there to be intriguing and a good fit for this post.
…another new band that has been hard at work. Below is the cover for this years new album Commandments, but keep your eyes out for their 2015 self titled release, and last years release, Drinking Water.
Magic in Threes-Heady Days (2017), 3, & IV both (2016) and Return of… (2015)
Strictly speaking this side project from the folks who brought us DeRobert and the Half-Truths, isn’t just Afrobeat but is more a collection of psychedelic rhythmic bliss, and cinematic hip hop beats. Still it’s the general Ethio-Jazz and Afro-centrism of the albums they’ve concocted that make them notable contenders in the genre.
…that’s my recap of some of the more notable albums that have come out, here’s a list with way more to sink your teeth into as well.
Sorry folks I’ve been slacking on this post for quite some time now, but I’m finally catching up and updating my shiz. Here it is the best, best of list from last year, you’re ever gonna see in March of the following year. This list comprises the best albums of last year, the ones that had soul/funk throughout and were exceptional for their style and sound. It is obviously a little different than singles, but you’ll notice some crossover. Now that that’s outta the way…
As is true every year 2017 had some great soul/funk records released. Some leaning towards the past and some firmly futuristic new fashions for soul and funk. A few of this year’s best albums used hip hop as their major influence. Retro sounds also mixed with gospel and folksy campfire incantations, while dark groovy vibes crept in. Fantastic danceable afro-beat mixed in with the funk, and turned the soft ground into mud. Even dusty country, grimy rhythm and blues, and dirty ol’ southern delta blues, got soul last year. In other words, what a year for moving forward and redefining what soul/funk means to us.
As heard on the Soul Donuts radio program @KWVA 88.1 FM Eugene here is The Top 25 Soul/Funk Albums released in 2017 below!
25. Nicole Willis and UMO Jazz Orchestra-My Name is Nicole Willis
New comer on the Soul Donuts radar, this young diva hits all the right notes on her album Soul Run simultaneously fresh and sounding old. She crafts a smooth soul revival sound, with a solid cast of producers that have helped her capture a unique vintage 60’s vibe.
Rage against the current political climate and a critique of consumerism are just some of the buttons that LA’s Soul Scratch has pressed on ‘Pushing Fire’. The group excels with straight-ahead soul butt-shakers and deep groovers, add the solid horn work and it makes this album a blast to listen to.
The Abstract Orchestra takes on the music of J Dilla the world re-knowned producer, to rearrange, deconstruct, and groove as a live band playing rap and hip hop classics. A fantastic album for the headphones, to nod your head to.
A multitude of genres and styles makes this album worth listening to as a whole, start to finish. Along this journey you will stay rooted in jazz and future soul, but will find oneself meeting the likes of; electro, house, disco, jazz fusion, broken beat, afro-carribean, afro-beat, and what sounds to me like new jack swing. All of this material is accompanied by funky guitar riffs, bits of scratchy samples, and spoken word sound bytes. Meanwhile the entire album is bathed in a mellow Fender Rhodes that washes over each track binding them together.
Sudanese-American singer songwriter Sinkane gives us his second full length album ‘Life and Livin’ It’, and it does just that makes life worth living. This album blends styles from all over the world including kraut-rock, Ethiopian jazz, soul and funk rock with his signature Sudanese pop. He is also the head of the all-star Afro-Electro-Funk band (includes David Byrne, Money Mark, Damon Albarn, Dev Hynes, Alexis Taylor, Redman, Jamie Lidell, Pharoah Sanders, and more…) the Atomic Bomb! playing the songs of legend William Onyeabor. Sinkane’s star is firmly on the rise.
Lord Echo is another moniker of multi-instrumentalist, DJ, and producer Mike Fabulous from New Zealand. On this project Mr. Fabulous uses his powers to dip in and out of styles including smooth reggae, funky latin rhythms, and elegant disco jams. Ultimately he crafted a fun and highly danceable album.
Hard hitting rhythms and thunderous horns that could pump up Rocky Balboa himself define the in your face sound of Ikebe Shakedown. This album is definitely recommended for fans of the Budos Band, with their almost post-apocalyptic desert-wasteland funk style. Also hat’s off to the guitar work on this one, you can hear a mix of surfy tremolo, and nasty funky wah standing out.
Very similar in style and feel to the aforementioned Ikebe Shakedown album, but with subtle differences. They still retain that deserted wayside funk but with some tendencies toward jazz, psychedelia, and Ethiopian jazz. The elegant use of the flute and more understated horns added nice colorful nuances.
Copenhagen’s D/Troit are the new darlings on the retro soul scene due to proper packaging, essential production from Daptone’s Gabe Roth, and receiving great reviews worldwide. After the famed music aficionado Craig Charles hyped them, ‘Soul Sound System’ started getting the attention it deserves. A great vintage soul reawakening done correctly enough to satisfy. Much like the many new soul revival acts who came before them the next question is where to turn to next? Is it a smart move to aim for a larger more pop-oriented market and sound? Or is it time to use your sophomore album to double down and stay in character long enough to see where this soul revival can take them? How authentic of a sound can they achieve? Those are the big questions…
The vinyl version of Return To The 37th Chamber is presented with 4 different hand painted covers. The originals were painted on two sewn together flour sacks in Accra, Ghana by Heavy J and Stoger, two artists who are legends in the Ghanaian Mobile Cinema scene and regular contributors to the Deadly Prey Gallery’s collection in Chicago.
From the music to the presentation, this album is a perfect example of what can only be achieved through diversity. The end result is as much a kaleidoscope of influences and multiculturalism as the city it was recorded in. El Michels Affair is once again, “sounding out the city” that raised them, pulling elements of art and culture from across the country and around the globe to create an album truly unique in it’s own right.
…and here’s a great interview with Leon Michels the man behind it all over at Mass Appeal.
Will Sessions, an actual 8 piece funk collective from Detroit, have been playing together for quite some time working with the likes of Mayer Hawthorne, Danny Brown, Elzhi, and Slum Village to name a few. This album is a collection of 7 inch singles the group recorded along their journey. Raw and uncut funk bangers that will surely twist your hips and purse those lips as you yell out, OOOH YEAH that’s hot. Based on the success of this release I predict great things are in the works for Will Sessions in the near future.
The Cactus Channel deliver thoughtful and emotive blue-eyed soul or alt-soul. Home to Melbourne, Australia the group has released it’s third album ‘Stay A While.’ They have struck gold by mining the same plot of soul and funk real estate that Melbourne favorites like the Bamboos and Saskwatch have already dug.
Serving as a swan song of sorts for the surviving members of gospel/soul group The Blind Boys of Alabama. Here the group sings with the same raw emotion and energy that already made them so enduring. This album is a deep and personal journey told about the lives and through the lens of core members Fountain and Carter, featuring a few covers, and a huge collaborative effort from some of the south’s finest. Songwriting help and performances were recruited from Marc Cohn, John Leventhal, Ruthie Foster, Cris Jacobs, the North Mississippi All-Stars, the legendary Randall Bramblett, Megafaun’s Phil Cook and Valerie June. The sound on this album touches deeply on folk, gospel, soul, and Americana. After nearly 7 decades of making music together The Blind Boys of Alabama have given us an amazing and lasting legacy. The folk and soul pours from every track and creates the perfect environment for contemplative and relaxing introspection.
Veteran Memphis soul-man Don Bryant hits back in his 70’s with new album ‘Don’t Give Up On Love.’ This collection of songs reinvigorates a decades long soul career that has been shelved for over twenty years aside from gospel songs and church services. After performing with the Bo-Keys Bryant was urged to continue his soul career and together they recorded this new album of solid Memphis soul.
There is a lot more to his story so read about some of it here on Paste Magazine.
Daptone’s gospel angels are back with an album that makes gospel relevant, necessary, and cool. With the Daptone house band, “The Glorifier’s,” at the helm it’s not hard to see why this album was so successful. Using traditional call and response formats for the songs it almost recalls mumble rap in its simplicity, however blasphemous that may seem. My craziness aside, it is a great album that seems fresh, especially for gospel.
Based in Britain but originating from Missouri this amalgamation of sounds and styles seems just right for a Missourian. A country swagger melds itself with soulful grooves, sun drenched dub, and southern barroom boogie. A little bit of New Orleans jazz, 80s, 90s, and blues mingles with the lo-fi, hazy atmosphere Nichols brews up. With an overall low-key, late 70’s soul vibe, ‘Country Hustle’ makes for a solitary example of how to compose something new in this crowded world.
Son Little came onto our radar with his early work with RJD2 as half of the group Icebird. A singer-songwriter of the highest order his best moments on ‘New Magic’ come to us via an upbeat pop ditty on Blue Magic, with a guest appearances from Questlove, and his soulful ballads that appear throughout. Similar to Sinkane in that they both have crafted their own sound entirely fresh and unique, Son Little is not copying any one style. Lush strings lend poignant emphasis to some tracks and spacey funk sounds to others. This album employs elements of soul, R&B, rhythm and blues, delta blues, folk, and Americana and is an album that is exciting, fashionable, and magical.
The larger than life Texas blues man has been working hard playing shows with his own band, the Mannish Boys, and recording since 1985. This time out the big man plays as much Memphis soul as he does his signature blues, cooking up a hell of gumbo. A fat slice of funky blues that will knock your socks off in a tornado of fury.
This Michigan native emerged onto the music scene performing backing vocals for Cee Lo. Now he finds his signature raspy falsetto recording with Danger Mouse on a powerful new record. Sumptuous strings and a tinge of fuzzy psych sounds also contributes to the projects captivating quality. Curtis Harding’s new album is a slice of dark introspective soul and a heavy dose of funk.
This is the third album that Mavis has collaborated with Jeff Tweedy on, and each time they have been able to conjure up strong divination. Rooted in soul, gospel, folksy Americana and blues, this album uses the current political and social climate as it’s staging ground. The album also leans more toward a dirty and dissonant funk that reflects the overall mood of the project. A truly amazing memento full of the social consciousness of the Staple Singers of old, but with the wisdom, and grace of a current master. Mavis is busy pushing forward into an uncertain future, waving the flag of peace, hope, and love with her uplifting and inspiring songs, but on this new album we are also exposed to her outrage and frustration.
Much has been said about the life and legacy of Sharon Jones so I won’t lament the subject here, but I will say that it hurts me personally to think I won’t be able to see her perform again. ‘Soul of a Woman’ is just the Dap-Kings and Sharon doing what they do best, throwing down the most authentic soul music anywhere around. Funky, rhythmic, hypnotic and poignant it really does have it all, in terms of a soul record. The first half of the record lets loose and captures the raucous sounds of northern soul floor-fillers and dance-hall groovers. The second half of the album evokes more of the style of early Motown and souls golden age.
This work is not only her last effort (released posthumously) but may possibly be her best. I legitimately loved every song on it. So of course it had to be our number one.
I won’t say much about it here, just that you should go listen to it. Love it, cherish it, and be thankful that we got to hear one last masterpiece from the father’s and mother of this new soul revival.
We’ve danced like children, drifted off in thought and memory, and shed some tears along the way, and now that we’ve crawled through the funky, dirty swamp and emerged onto the other side, we are wiser and more aware. It”s now become clear that it was a great year for us Soul babies and it’s even more clear that big things are still to come.
On the Soul Donuts radio program I counted down the best soul/funk singles of 2017. Of course a list like this is very subjective but I’m confident, after listening and reviewing tons of music from last year, that I’ve given you guys the very best offerings. So here it is the top 15 tracks hovering around the galaxy of soul/funk from last year…(w/ download links included. You’re welcome.)
For this album I could’ve picked any of the songs on it since they were all equally amazing in their own way, but I chose Girl…because it hit me a little bit harder than the other tracks, it spoke to me, and had that perfect vintage feel.
Here’s the link for my Christmas radio show on the one and only KWVA Radio. It’s fun, it’s heartfelt, as in it will warm your heart, and it’s the perfect soundtrack to your funky, soulful, afro-centric holiday party. Disclaimer: you will have to use these songs for your holiday party in the absence of songs about Kwanza. Have a happy holiday!
Download or stream the entire 2 hour show for an instant party, shake well.
Here’s a look at the colorful world of Blaxploitation soundtracks and the amazing posters that accompanied these classic film releases. At Soul Donuts radio on KWVA FM we did three weeks of Blaxploitation exploration. Here are highlights from those 3 shows. Place yourself back in a time and place where extra large Cadillac’s floated down the street, driven by leather and fur clad hustlers draped in jewelry, wasn’t a thang. Just imagine outlaw justice being carried out on the tough streets of the concrete jungle, and what luck was left to be had was only bad-luck…
…as a side note I wanted to mention the interesting tale of the film Brotherman and it’s soundtrack. Head over to the Numero Group’s site for the lowdown on that.
The internet is awash with blogs discussing Blaxploitation films so this is in no way comprehensive or informative, just a lil fun…or should I say funk.
For more over-the-top Blaxploitation madness head over here…
Starting off our journey into this realm we start with a look at some of the most colorful pimps.
Willie Dynamite takes the whole genre over the top, even to the point of parody. This film features a battle for territory between the cities entrepreneurial pimps, and the perils associated with the world’s second oldest profession.
Let’s not forget about The Mack, one of the most poignant and thought provoking films about pimping ever made. This movie features a breakout role for Max Julien, and a fantastic co-starring role for Richard Pryor, who was further solidifying his rise to stardom at this time.
The real far out thing about both of these pimp movies are the cars, so fly.
Blaxploitation might seem like a male dominated genre, but the biggest playa of all was the lovely Miss Pam Grier. She was a playa, a tough mama, and a righteous sista all in one. Pam starred in more movies than I can list here, most famously Foxy Brown, and Coffy, and appeared in almost all of the best films of the genre, even including Scream Blacula Scream. She began her rise in popularity from appearing in a string of prison films (Women in Cages, The Arena, Black Mama White Mama, Big Birdcage, etc). Prison films is another sub-genre of exploitation, drive-in, grindhouse and B-movies, that ushered in Blaxploitation films, and were hugely influential to them. Pam’s story is pure poetic justice if you think about it, she started out her film career as a tortured, and exploited prisoner, and rose into the reigning queen and arguably the largest superstar in the genre. If that’s not playa, I don’t know what is…
In Black Samson a local nightclub owner tangles with the mob, the message here,…don’t mess with a playa.
Rudy Ray Moore aka Dolemite was un-matched in the genre for his comedic portrayal of a tough silver-tongued playa. Dolemite wasn’t real he was just a slightly, and I do mean slightly exaggerated form of Mr. Ray Moore himself.
…and don’t forget your very own bobblehead collecitble.
Private Eye Jesse Crowder is on the case and he won’t sleep until his man is in chains. Catchphrases include “ Never trust a woman with her clothes off!” and “You pay the bill. I’ll deliver it, legal, illegal, moral or otherwise!” This movie has a smashing title track by The Dells.
What’s better than cross-pollinating pulp film genres? Nothing. In Horror Blaxploitation films we see the already popular horror genre getting Afro-centric in these often times hilarious and perfectly low-budget classics.
Zombie themes had already been a common place to see black actors in Hollywood, typically portraying crazed Haitian voodoo priests or unwitting servants haunting other remote island locales.
The name says it all, perhaps the most perfectly coined movie title in the entire genre.
…of course the popularity of this film spawned many copycats.
High school was a common theme in the genre. Here’s 3 films about school featuring; A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich, Cornbread Earl & Me, and Cooley High which all touched on the inequalities in the education system, and the difficulties of trying to go to school, even play ball, and survive the mean streets.
Politics saw it’s own take on racial segregation, discrimination, and inequality in the professonal business world…
Westerns and Exotic
..and of course Westerns, and Exotic films. These films were some of the first films to feature prominently black actors, most famously in Bull-Dogger (1922) and Harlem on the Prairie (1937). Although these very same films often had great wage inequalities, and were heavily derided for their portrayal of black Africans and indigenous people as savages.
Here’s the theme song to Buck and the Preacher man. A country and western film that may or may not fit this genre, but has a great poster, the incomparable Sidney Poitier, and that great theme song. Dig it below.
Last year was an explosive year for soul and funk. 2016 posed the greatest challenge for me of any year since I’ve begun reviewing the best soul/funk records. Typically the choices have been obvious and great records would have all made the list, not true last year. Unfortunately I’ve chosen to include only the top 25 records here, and so a lot of fantastic albums were left on the cutting room floor and filed into the honorable mentions section below. The level of quality and the amount of inspirational new soul and funk music coming out every year has made clear to all of us fans of the genre that a new renaissance of sorts is overtaking the globe filling our world with soulful sounds. The future is bright my friends.
25. Bacao Rhythm and Steel Band-55
This side project of the famously funky Mighty Mocambos features the steel drum in inventive new ways. 55 is an album full of ingenious covers and creative originals. The band has replaced the instant gratification and immediacy of synthesizers and beat machines with a powerful ensemble of musicians that craft hard funk versions of the originals. Featuring covers of 50 cent, Faith Evans, Dennis Coffey, and Cat Stevens you will marvel at the reinvented use of steel drum in new and surprising ways.
24. Marta Ren and the Groovelvets-Stop Look Listen
The lovely Marta Ren is new to us here at Soul Donuts. This young Portuguese soul princess has surrounded herself with a tight group of musicians and landed on the world renowned Record Kicks label. After the release of her hugely popular single, Two Kinds of Men, she has released her debut full length album to great acclaim. Propelled by the records first hit, I’m Not a Regular Woman, this album has been steamrolling listeners around the globe. Backed by an impressive 8-piece rhythm and soul combo this is just the first offering in what is sure to be an exciting career.
The Silverbacks are back on the countdown after last years incredible release with David Hooper, this time employing the powerful vocals of Miss Shirley Davis at the helm. Davis born in London and living in Australia for many years, relocated to Madrid and found the Silverbacks her new backing band. She’s been crafting her style with the help of the late Sharon Jones, Osaka Monaurail, and Deep Street Soul among others and has found a new home in Spain, the up and coming new soul capitol of the world. This album features an array of bold horns and solid rhythms on both instrumental and vocal arrangements. Part funky, and soulful with a touch of spacey ethio-afrobeat, this debut release from the Silverbacks with Shirley Davis is the perfect sound track for your daily grind.
Raw and gritty funk, just the way we like it. This is the 3rd full length release from the Dutch soul ensemble. On this album the band has infused the swampy sounds of New Orleans into their rich sound complete with horn section, pulsing Hammond organ, wailing vocals, smooth grooves and solid break-neck rhythms. Highly recommended for any fan of heavy soul/funk.
The young multi-instrumentalist/producer can’t be stopped. Working with the likes of Ghostface Killah, the Delfonics, Souls of Mischief, Kendrick Lamar, members of A Tribe Called Quest, the Funk Brothers, Dennis Coffey, Calibro 35, and Cee Lo among many others, Mr.Younge is constantly hard at work. This release is one of 3 releases dropped in 2016 by him, the other Electronique Void: Black Noise, and the Soundtrack to Luke Cage. Here we revere the second installment of his Something About April project featuring silky soul and sexy grooves to rock the bed sheets and sweat out your worries. Heavily indebted to the sounds of blaxploitation, Younge the man behind the Back Dynamite soundtrack, uses his love of Hip Hop and his streetwise persona to masterfully craft modern soul classics and beyond.
New to us here at Soul Donuts, Durand Jones and the Indications are a group of University of Indiana Soul Revue musicians who transcended that collegiate group to form their own and record on the exciting Colemine Record label. Native Louisianan Durand Jones has enlisted the help of friends Aaron Frazer and Blake Rhein to produce and play in the band that focuses on vintage sound. Utilizing live recording and little frills, they crafted a highly listenable and exciting new record of soul, blues, and classic R&B.
19. Hannah Williams and the Affirmations-Light Nights & Heartbreak
After hitting the scene hard with her group the Tastemakers, Hannah Williams is back with a new, hand-picked group of soul impresario’s; the Affirmations. This new record benefits from the help of the talented London producer Malcolm Catto, the mastermind behind the Heliocentrics, another Soul Donuts favorite. This record has tight instrumentation with bold horns on each soul/funk outing. Late Nights and Heartbreak also gives us a slight taste of latin and psychadelia accenting Hannah’s powerful vocals on floor-stompers and ballads rounding out a solid album all the way through.
Not everyone is slick enough to bring unabashed pop music to the table. On this record producer Adam Gibbons (aka Lack of Afro) drops the needle on crackly samples and cuts up nothing but fun. A sound that hearkens back to the 90’s even caricaturing soul music with flatness and plasticity, Hello Baby is unique and different for 2016. Those qualities might make some folks turned off, but if you are capable of letting down your guard and just having some fun with a different take on soul, Motown and R&B you may just find yourself smiling and dancing to this one.
This 6 piece band complete with horns and all the fixin’s conjures up the gospel truth through the lens of Muscle Shoals’ famous soul producing tabernacle. Rarely has a group of white boys revived the classic sounds of southern black people with such depth and feeling. This, their second album, solidifies St. Paul and crew as a true force in modern soul music. As well the album functions as a whole with the theme of crumbling and burning running throughout. Sea of Noise simultaneously channels the histories of Stax and San Fran funk/rock, balanced with more quiet and poignant moments of contemplation. This is a real slice of southern communion for all soul fans.
During a five decade long career Aaron Neville has run the gauntlet of the music industry. From pop super-stardom, to famously working with his brothers and collaborating with the impeccable Allen Touissant this is surprisingly the first album primarily written by the legendary artist. On Apache Mr. Neville employed the help of Erick Krasno of Lettuce and Soulive, as well as the Daptone horns to help produce a first rate soul album. An album by a legendary artist this late in his career isn’t always a success but Neville has figured out how to touch on his long career, his life in New Orleans, and use it as inspiration for new work.
During a trip to Greece a prophetic vision in a dream prompted Toby Pazner to tell the story of ancient mythology through instrumental funk. Pazner is a Daptone producer/keyboardist and one of the main players behind the success of their vast library. Utilizing the help of his friends in the Menahan Street Band, Lee Fields, The Arcs, Charles Bradley, the Budos Band, and the Dap-Kings, the newly formed group set out to tell a story of Olympian magnitude.
When a soul legend comes back to the court to play ball, it’s time to take out the score cards and plant yourself firmly in the bleachers and spectate. William Bell started making soul music in his late teens/early twenties backing Rufus Thomas, and had his first hit “You don’t miss your water” in 1961. A long and industrious career at Stax Records proceeded for decades and into the present where he got his chance to record again with the legendary label. 2016’s This is Where I Live garnered the soul-man a Grammy nomination for best Americana album. The record includes new originals and re-vamped classics from his earliest days, and seems to have reinvigorated Bell to continue pursuing music into the future. This album is not just a tribute to his former glory but a solid effort of new soul and R&B for any fan of the genre.
Blue Note France and Ben L’Oncle Soul have delighted fans of Frank Sinatra with a great tribute album to the legendary crooner. Not just another tribute to Sinatra, this album takes his songs into the realms of soul, reggae, blues and jazz in surprising and exciting new ways. Since much of Sinatra’s music was penned by other musicians and composer’s anyways, it’s not strange or uncommon to hear different takes on these ubiquitous tunes, in the way standards are repeatedly reworked and made fresh again. Sampled drum breaks and a high level of production on the tracks polish many of the songs to a fine veneer that underscores the contemporary direction Ben has been working towards, but ultimately this album is smooth, soulful, gritty, and funky.
Missy Elliot’s one time protégé has reinvented herself and emerged as a soulful force to be reckoned with. After her work with the Black Key’s on their Blackroc album and subsequent backing vocal gigs with the band on their 2009 ‘Brothers’ she has reincarnated her career into a soul diva. This is Nicole Wray’s first solo album since 1998’s ruffneck album ‘Make it Hot,’ which earned her a gold certified single. Employing the help of Big Crown Records retro-soul veteran producer Leon Michels and Daptones session wizard Tom Brenneck, they helped to craft Lady Wray’s style and sound into timeless 60/70’s soul.
Myles Sanko exudes a suave and stylish persona matched only by his immense talent in a multitude of different areas. The Ghanaian born, British soul maestro, is not just an exceptional singer, he is also a songwriter, producer, designer, and cinematographer. This album transcends labels and speaks to us with breadth and humanity with a sound that is remarkably similar to Bill Withers. Not merely pleading for acceptance and understanding, Sanko quietly eases us into the conversation of overcoming our narrow minds and boundaries to allow for a deeper more complex way of being. In other words, one of many humans sharing this planet together, dealing with love and loss. It’s his message that sticks with you as much as the beautiful arrangements and harmonies. ‘Just Being Me’ is a subtle, and poignant tribute to soul, jazz, and classical music, that speaks to the beauty all around us, and how we often take that for granted.
After working with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco for the past few years, producing two great solo albums and one posthumous album with her late father Pops Staples, Mavis has employed the help of M. Ward to produce her newest record. As well as working with a new producer she has gained the help of highly respected song writers Nick Cave, Neko Case, Justin Vernon, and others to help her with the record. The results were nothing short of amazing and showed us that happiness can still be found in this world if you keep the right attitude and continue pressing on. ‘Livin’ on a High Note’ is an album full of reminiscing, and history, but it is also a call to action to learn to love each other and dial it back to simpler times and just enjoy the gift of life.
The third full album from rhythm and blues revivalist Nick Waterhouse is pure feet shuffling goodness. Back with his original collaborative producer, Michael McHugh, (Black Lips, Ty Segall) Waterhouse has once again found his comfort zone. With guest stars such as Leon Bridges and a stellar band of veterans, their dedication to the classic sounds of R&B is evident, and sure to make you groove.
Just like the city he loves so much, Andre Williams has a rough and gritty style that only gets better with age and perseverance. Utilizing the street wise swagger of a hardened pimp Williams doesn’t just portray such a character as much as he lives it everyday, and that attitude is evident on this album, his tribute to Detroit. ‘Back to Detroit City’ has all of the raw and funky qualities of his classic material also touching on soul, rock, country, and blues. This album is a testament to Williams’ constant battle to find a place in the history of music and his affirmation that he is still out there kicking around stones, much like the crumbling decay of his beloved Detroit City.
Like much of the music that we love here at Soul Donuts this album has the qualities of a classic soul record while simultaneously being contemporary and fresh. Paperboy Reed’s new album has been described ans lo-fi garage gospel, a fitting moniker that helps to describe his foray into spirituality in his music. His gospel influence comes to him from his family, namely his father who played in gospel bands growing up, and seems to make sense as a back-drop for his new venture into the genre. Not the typical slow churchey dirges, ‘My Way Home’ is more raucous and alive than anything fundamental to typical religious gatherings.
The one time backup singer for James Brown is still doing it after her 32 year run with the godfather of soul. After hooking up with the band Speedometer for 2012’s Soul Overdue album, Martha High has been working tirelessly to write and record new music earning her the oft quoted title, “one of the hardest working ladies in show business.” Discovered by Bo Diddley at a talent show, she started recording with the Jewels and caught the attention of George Clinton who went on to produce for the band. It’s at this time that JB discovered the young singer and the rest is history. Fast forward to the present day and we find her still working and recording showing off her gift, and a sound spanning the musical spectrum, from soul and rhythm & blues to rock and roll and gospel. Her soulful style appeals to a wide audience, from the young to the old and she proves that with her newest album.
G-funk, 90’s R&B, jazz, and future soul arrive on the scene. Terrace Martin is a multi-instrumentalist and producer who uses the saxophone as his main instrument and tool to express his voice. After contributions to Kendrick Lamar and many others Martin has burst onto the scene as one of the music industries emerging stars. This album is diverse in its style with smooth g-funk grooves at its core and will seduce the listener from track to track to fall in love with the young mans new and refreshing take of 90s streetwise smoothed out grooves and lots of jazz.
This album reminded me of Marvin Gaye’s classic ‘What’s Going On.” Kiwanuka has delivered a soulful masterpiece that drifts in and out of the melodies seamlessly and ties together not only the flow of the songs, but also the message of love, loss, and overcoming ones status in a messed up world. This album has pure moments of brilliance, soul rattling beauty, and a strong message of social justice and equality. I recommend listening to the whole thing in your headphones to get the entire experience and truly soak in the entirety of the album as it was meant to be, from beginning to end.
The man known as ‘the screaming eagle of soul’ has been busy recording great records at Dunham the Daptone affiliate. He is one of the artists who has lead the way in creating and sustaining the global soul revival. This album continues his journey and is pure soul music ripped from the 60s golden age. Very little needs to be said about Charles Bradley as a man or musician, his reputation of years of hard work has cemented itself in our hearts and made fans of us all.
Special Night seems to define all of the positive things about the soul/funk revival that has taken hold. A solid album of ballads, groovers, floor shakers, and downright hits. Lee Fields and the expressions have been crafting their style for years and it has clearly paid off. The band works remarkably well together and highlights Lee’s infectious crooning perfectly. The songs on this album are solid tracks that can stand alone, yet the album seems to touch on all of the right notes and moods throughout. A true masterpiece of contemporary soul/funk for all fans.
The number one album of 2016 is here! Not only was this the number one soul/funk release of 2016 it was also my favorite album of the year across all genres. ‘Hold On’ came in handy any time it was played. Whether shuffled upon, listening to the entirety or introducing friends of its greatness, it is always a winner. For those not familiar with James Hunter or his band you need to be, and quick. The British guitarist/singer/songwriter possess a certain fluidity with his style and sound that makes his music and his life such a gift. Clearly James is having fun making music and I thank him dearly for sharing this gift with the world. The soul world that is. Soul Donuts !
Now that we’ve reached the end you might be wondering what next? If you are curious and want to hear more great music from the soul and funk world in 2016 head over to Spotify to check out my Soul Donuts 2016 playlist. It has a ton of great music that I reviewed last year including my honorable mentions and other great music.
Stay tuned for honorable mentions in the next post, stuff I missed in 2016, 15, 14, 13, and compdown 2016 coming soon…
…playlist below. Also check Soul Donuts Spotify playlists from 2013, 14, 15, and the newly formed 2017 playlist, which will grow larger all year long! Keep on keepin’ on.
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