Various Artists

Pure Swing [Universal 2010]

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Considering the increasing foray into dance music by the likes of Black Eyed Peas and Usher, it can be easy to forget that R&B hasn't always been dominated by electro beats, Auto-Tuned vocals and layers of synths. Indeed, the late-'80s and early-'90s urban scene was ruled by funky basslines, hip-hop rhythms, and soulful harmonies in a subgenre also known as New Jack Swing. An already successful compilation series, Pure Swing compiles the best tracks from its five '90s albums to produce a retrospective of the music that introduced the world to En Vogue, Mary J. Blige, and Boyz II Men, to name a few. As the producer credited for creating its unique sound, it's inevitable that Pure Swing has Teddy Riley's stamp written all over it, not only as an artist as part of Guy, Blackstreet, and his duet with Tammy Lucas, but also as a producer on tracks from Wreckx-N-Effect, Heavy D and the Boyz, and Bobby Brown. However, aside from the Tupac-sampling "Don't Leave Me," his contributions are by no means the standouts. From Disc One, Adina Howard's feisty "Freak Like Me," Montell Jordan's huge party anthem "This Is How We Do It," and Shanice's gloriously uplifting "I Love Your Smile" provide the highlights, as do Sounds of Blackness' gospel-inspired "I'm Going All the Way," Pebbles' infectious "Girlfriend," and Brandy's sultry slow jam "I Wanna Be Down," from the second disc. The third disc selections fopcus on the likes of Johnny Gill, Aaron Hall, and Tevin Campbell, who may be less familiar to U.K. audiences, but these inclusions certainly don't lessen the album's quality, with Jodeci's raunchy "Freek'n You," Soul for Real's Jackson 5-inspired "Candy Rain," and Shai's "If I Ever Fall in Love" (later a hit for Gabrielle and East 17) among the hidden gems. However, despite featuring 52 tracks, there are several notable omissions. R. Kelly, arguably the genre's most successful star, is only represented by his production of Changing Faces' "Stroke You Up," while TLC, Aaliyah, and Janet Jackson, responsible for some of the era's biggest hits, are also ignored. Pure Swing isn't as comprehensive or as hit-laden as similar recently released Essential '90s R&B anthems, but featuring both iconic tracks and lesser-known U.S. hits, it still provides an intriguing and exciting introduction to a classic and under-rated genre.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 4:55
2 3:51
3 4:31
4 4:18
5 4:43
6 4:24
7 3:36
9 4:18
10 4:03
11 3:54
12 4:08
13 3:50
14 4:28
15 4:13
16 4:40
17 3:52
18 3:46

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:53
2 4:23
3 4:00
4 4:03
5 4:53
6 3:46
7 3:57
8 4:50
9 4:19
10 3:14
12 4:04
13 3:43
14 4:18
15 3:47
16 3:52
17 3:50
18 4:47
19 4:09
blue highlight denotes track pick