Various Artists

25 Years of R&B: 1971

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This budget compilation from Rhino's Flashback division collects ten tracks from seven record labels that were Top Ten R&B hits in 1971 and 1972. (Despite the single year cited in the title, Millie Jackson's "Ask Me What You Want" dates from the first quarter of 1972, not 1971.) The biggest hit here is Jean Knight's chart-topper "Mr. Big Stuff," which went double platinum, while four of the other tracks went gold. The music reflects the mixed state of black music in the early '70s, starting with Curtis Mayfield's solo debut single, the socially conscious and deeply cynical "(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below We're All Going to Go" and continuing with lush pop tunes like Joe Simon's "Drowning in the Sea of Love," funky workouts like Rufus Thomas' "The Breakdown," and revivals of '60s favorites "Where Did Our Love Go?," by Donnie Elbert, and "Spanish Harlem," by Aretha Franklin. Clearly, the music was in transition, and even in only these ten representative recordings the changes are noticeable.

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