Various Artists

Funk Soul Sisters [Metro]

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Spreading itself thick across three decades of funk, soul, and smooth R&B, Metro's Funk Soul Sisters not only covers a fair amount of stylistic ground, but it also mixes chart hits with rare groove, and in turn serves up a compilation that plugs gaps in one's collection while remaining a great listen from front to back. Though the focus is obviously on the women who made these songs what they are, the graceful touch of Roy Ayers is felt on four highlights of the disc's 16 cuts: Bobby Humphrey's "Baby Don't U Know," Eighties Ladies' "I Knew That Love," and two songs from Eighties Ladies' vocalist Sylvia Striplin's solo album ("All Alone" and "Will We Ever Pass This Way Again"), which were released on Ayers' Uno Melodic label in the early '80s. These four songs represent the smoother side of the album, while the remainder -- such as Betty Wright's Top Ten hit "Clean up Woman," the Jones Girls' "Will You Be There" and "I Turn to You," Betty Harris' "There's a Break in the Road," Betty Davis' "No Good at Falling in Love," and Deniece Chandler's "It's You I Need" -- are a shade grittier and a bit funkier in comparison. It goes without saying that these songs are uplifting, empowering, and emotionally resonant for those who have gone through the experiences that these artists sing about. Like its counterpart, Funk Soul Brothers (seems a bit odd that a compilation focusing on male artists would be necessary, doesn't it?), Funk Soul Sisters has plenty to offer.

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