Various Artists

Rhythm, Love and Soul: The Sexiest Songs of R&B [WQED]

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This three-disc 60-track box is a generally excellent representation of R&B during its most influential and commercially relevant era. Spanning 1958-1981 but focusing on the mid-'60s through the mid-'70s, the compilers -- who are also Shout! Factory and ex-Rhino label owners Richard and Garson Foos, along with T.J. Lubinsky -- try to represent each artist, regardless of output, only once. Although Smokey Robinson sneaks in three times (once each as a member of the Miracles and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, and as a solo artist), this makes for a generous and varied compilation that cherry-picks from a remarkably wide selection of labels and artists. It also pays as much attention to such seldom-anthologized R&B acts as the Temprees and the Persuaders as to the more obvious choices of Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin, the latter of whom is thankfully represented by "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and not "Chain of Fools" or "Respect." Stylized and dated, predominantly black-and-white photos adorn the book that is filled with breezy track-by-track notes from noted soul historian Bill Dahl, and the remastered sound is crisp and clean. Sure, there are some glaring omissions (Ray Charles, Etta James, Ike & Tina Turner, Sam & Dave, and most noticeably Sam Cooke are all MIA), but the set does a terrific job of condensing a few decades of stirring love music to three discs that seldom get syrupy or overly maudlin. The set is also not chronologically arranged, which should provide a better flow, although some segues, such as shifting from the Platters' luxuriant ballad reading of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" to Edwin Starr's tough funk of "Twenty-Five Miles," make for rather jarring transitions. The disco era is curiously ignored as well, but that just provides a more consistent overall listening experience. Only a few songs are not classics and those add flavor to this well-rounded compilation that is one of the better, if not the best, collections of romantically tinged soul music from this era.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:23
2 2:56
3 3:05
4 3:10
5 4:05
6 3:21
7 2:29
8 2:30
9 2:59
10 2:31
11 2:44
12 4:50
13 3:53
14 3:04
15 3:38
16 3:28
17 2:33
18 3:42
19 4:47
20 2:31

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 4:02
2 2:28
3 2:40
4 3:21
5 5:08
6 4:01
7 2:53
8 3:45
9 3:28
10 3:12
11 2:23
12 2:43
13 3:28
14 3:38
15 3:28
16 2:55
17 3:06
18 3:41
19 2:48
20 3:50

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 4:14
2 2:39
3 3:32
4 4:35
5 4:58
6 3:20
7 2:38
8 2:53
9 2:32
10 3:59
11 3:00
12 3:59
13 3:25
14 2:42
15 4:17
16 3:50
17 5:57
18 3:39
19 2:52
20 3:59
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