Various Artists

Soul Culture: 03

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Since the early 2000s, the excellence of a good soul-jazz-funk-disco-fusion compilation hasn't necessarily depended on the right number of undiscovered and underappreciated tracks. In a sense, the bar is higher since rare and high-quality material is harder to come by; in another sense, the bar is lower since it's hard to do any worse than the dozens of discs that have either recycled too much or gone too deep. The third volume of the Soul Culture series, just like the two before it, finds a balance between material that's familiar and relatively obscure. Not as thematically focused as the second volume, this disc nonetheless flows well enough to wow serious collectors. Compiled and sequenced with care, the highlights include the Isley Brothers' "Fight the Power," Odyssey's "Don't Tell Me, Tell Her," Gil Scott-Heron's "When You Are Who You Are," and Ramsey Lewis' version of War's "Slippin' Into Darkness" (one of the baddest covers you will ever hear).

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