Various Artists

Soul Sessions [Sessions]

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The Sessions wing of Union Square Music comes up with another no-frills but boldly packaged double-disc set of both familiar and overlooked music. As with other installments in the series like Funk Sessions and Breaks Sessions, Soul Sessions -- to both its detriment and its credit -- is hardly a run-of-the-mill compilation. It includes some smooth, well-known hits that still emanate over the radio waves of specialty soul programs, along with several cuts that are rightly or questionably cult favorites with crate diggers. A broad spectrum is covered, reaching back to 1968 for Jackie Wilson's "I Get the Sweetest Feeling" and bringing things more up to date with former Jones Girl Jean Carne, who delivers one of a handful of late-'90s cuts with "Don't Stop Doin' Watcha Doin'." Throughout, a fair amount of attention is paid to the U.K.'s rare groove scene of the early '90s, which placed emphasis on obscure R&B from the late '70s and early '80s. In addition, some bona fide chart monsters are thrown in to make matters all the more diverse. This broad range is sequenced with skill, so there are no huge stylistic leaps -- everything here is in the service of a lazy afternoon (Grover Washington, Jr. and Bill Withers' "Just the Two of Us," Kashif's "Rhythm of My Mind," Atlantic Starr's "My Love Is Real") or a romantic evening (Al B. Sure's "Nite and Day," Billy Griffin's "Hold Me Tighter in the Rain," Sylvia's "Pillow Talk," the Isley Brothers' "For the Love of You"). Perhaps the most significant aspect of the set is the fact that it makes a noble attempt at bridging the gulf between those who believe modern R&B has nothing to offer and those who aren't so in tune with the past. For those who like it smooth and easy, this has plenty in store.

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