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Voice: Popular Listening Examples

Popular Listening Examples

Listening examples for voice from popular music


Streaming Audio

We'll Meet Again - Romantic Songs of the War Years via Naxos Music Library


Phono-Cylinders. Volume One with various contributors
CD 23165  Check Availability
Image:Phono_cylinders_volume_one.jpg‎ From the catalog:
"Cylinder reissues with everything 'from cornball comedy to military band selections to serious political speeches'--Insert."
The Earliest Negro Vocal Quartets, 1894-1928 with various contributors
CD 2413  Check Availability
Image:Earliest_Negro_Vocal_Quartets.jpg‎ From
"A treasure trove for archivists, Earliest Negro Vocal Quartets (1894-1928) compiles 23 impossibly rare recordings spotlighting the African-American four-part harmony singing style which predated both jazz and the blues. The real treat here is the lone surviving recording by the Standard Quintette, 1894's 'Keep Movin';' a cylinder cut for Columbia, it is in fact the only black music recording of its time to survive into the 20th century, and as a piece of history alone it's invaluable." - Jason Ankeny
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Classic Blues Women with various contributors
CD 959  Check Availability
Image:Classic_blues_women.jpg‎ From
"Although it is now a male dominated field, the earliest to record and have success in the blues field were women. This volume not only collects up many of the great recordings by these women (Mamie, Trixie and Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Sippie Wallace, Ma Rainey), but also holds the distinction in the series of being one of the few that offers multiple selections by some of these artists. Highly recommended." - Cub Koda
Moanin' All Over by Blind Lemon Jefferson
CD 15639  Check Availability
Image:Moanin_all_over.jpg‎ From
"This ten-track, 26 1/2-minute mid-priced disc is a reissue of the Olympic Records LP Blind Lemon Jefferson (7134), and contains recordings originally made for Paramount Records in the 1920s, among them 'The Black Snake Moan.' Despite sonic cleansing, the tracks are still primitive-sounding, but Jefferson's distinctive singing and guitar playing can still be appreciated. For neophytes, this short, low-cost album provides a good curtain-raiser to Jefferson's work." - William Ruhlmann


Robert Johnson, The Complete Recordings by Robert Johnson
CD 2869-2870  Check Availability
Image:Robert_Johnson_the_complete_recordings.jpg‎ From
"This collection lives up to its title, containing every known recording by Johnson, including alternate takes. Though the 41 tracks in this double disc set were recorded in a span of only eight months (November 1936-June 1937), Johnson left behind a musical legacy that continues to influence and inspire. Features tracks like 'Sweet Home Chicago', 'Love In Vain' and 'Hellhound On My Trail', which are now considered Blues standards."
George and Ira Gershwin in Hollywood by George Gershwin
CD 18748 - 18749  Check Availability
Image:George_and_Ira_Gershwin_in_Hollywood.jpg‎ From
"Original recordings of songs and music composed by George and Ira Gershwin for the Hollywood factory dreams, and performed by [outstanding] personalities of the screen. A truly tribute to a unique musical partnership in the twentieth century."
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Bessie Smith: The Collection by Bessie Smith
CD 2687  Check Availability
Image:Voice_Bessie_Smith_the_Collection.jpg‎ From the publisher:
"Backed by a rotating roster of jazz stars, Smith's potent delivery made her a peerless star of classic female blues, combining a fiercely independent, almost defiant approach with subtly effective tinges of vulnerability." - Marc Greilsamer
America's Blue Yodeler, 1930-1931 by Jimmie Rodgers
CD 10497  Check Availability
Image:America's_Blue_Yodeler.jpg‎ From
"This fifth set of vintage Jimmie Rodgers performances includes some spectacular collaborations. While neither sounds fully comfortable, the meeting of Rodgers and Louis Armstrong on 'Blue Yodel No. 9' is a landmark date in music annals, two immortals finding a way to make seemingly disparate styles mesh on a short tune. Armstrong's wife at the time, Lil Hardin, accompanied the pair on piano. Rodgers also teamed frequently with Lani McIntire's Hawaiians on this set, often on throwaway tunes that Rodgers' vocals made enjoyable. There's another collaboration with a blues artist, this time Clifford Gibson on 'Let Me Be Your Side Track,' a great, bawdy innuendo number. Rodgers was paired with the Carter Family on two wonderful classic country numbers, the heartbreak tune 'Why There's a Tear in My Eye' and the gospel song 'The Wonderful City.'" - Ron Wynn


Muddy Waters by Muddy Waters
CD 22593  Check Availability
Image:Muddy_Waters.jpg‎ From
"A postwar Chicago blues scene without the magnificent contributions of Muddy Waters is absolutely unimaginable. From the late '40s on, he eloquently defined the city's aggressive, swaggering, Delta-rooted sound with his declamatory vocals and piercing slide guitar attack. When he passed away in 1983, the Windy City would never quite recover." - Bill Dahl
The Great Gospel Women with various contributors
CD 13163  Check Availability
Image:Great_Gospel_Women.jpg‎ From
"Like its male counterpoint, this anthology spotlights contributions from both famous stars (Mahalia Jackson, Marion Williams, Dorothy Love Coates, Sister Rosetta Tharpe) and obscure figures (Mary Johnson Davis, Jessie Mae Renfro, Lucy Smith, and Goldia Haynes, among others), presenting a hefty 31 selections. While some might quibble that celebrated stars Jackson and Williams get six tracks apiece, it's hard to argue with the greatness of what's presented by them. Others who give head-turning performances include Frances Steadman, Roberta Martin, and Clara Ward." - Ron Wynn


The Great Gospel Men with various contributors
CD 13164  Check Availability
Image:Great_gospel_men.jpg‎ From
"A wide range of magnificent vocals are displayed on The Great Gospel Men, a 27-song anthology. Some names such as Brother Joe May, Rev. James Cleveland, and Professor Alex Bradford are familiar even to non-gospel fans; others, like the intense Robert Anderson, Professor J. Earle Hines, Norsalus McKissick, Robert Bradley, and R.L. Knowles are known only to the hardcore, and even they probably haven't heard many songs by any one artist. This collection alternates nicely between slow and fast pieces, giving each artist a chance to demonstrate their skills." - Ron Wynn
The Essence of Billie Holiday by Billie Holiday
CD 2678  Check Availability
Image:Essence_of_Billie_Holiday.jpg‎ From
"Though it is probable that her talent would have been discovered eventually, the fact that John Hammond put a teenage Billie Holiday in the studio in 1933 is one of jazz's more fortuitous occurrences. Surrounding Ms. Holiday with excellent players at such an early stage surely helped shape her musicianly approach to a tune. Her incredible, elastic sense of beat placement and playful toying with melodies are informed by the blues--Bessie Smith was her idol--and an improviser's perspective on interpretation. This excellent compilation, taken roughly from the first 10 years of her career, is a fine introduction to her artistry for newcomers as well as a great single disc sampling for the already converted. Quintessential renditions of 'God Bless the Child,' 'All of Me,' and 'The Man I Love' are included as well as an irrepressible, peppy 'What a Little Moonlight Can Do,' taken from her first commercial recording session."


Everything I Have Is Yours: The Best of the M-G-M Years by Billy Eckstine
CD 18835 - 18836  Check Availability
Image:Everything_I_have_is_Yours.jpg‎ From
"The pop side of Billy Eckstine was emphasized during his period with MGM and many of these selections (including hit versions of 'Everything I Have Is Yours,' 'Blue Moon,' 'Caravan,' 'My Foolish Heart,' and 'I Apologize') feature his warm baritone backed by string sections... Although not as essential from the jazz standpoint as Billy Eckstine's earlier big-band dates, this two-fer features the singer at the peak of his powers; five ballad duets with Sarah Vaughan are a highlight." - Scott Yanow
Ella Fitzgerald, The Early Years: Part 1: With Chick Webb and his Orchestra by Ella Fitzgerald
CD 3489-3490  Check Availability
Image:Ella_Fitzgerald_early_years.jpg‎ From
"Listeners used to Ella Fitzgerald's later work may be surprised by this two-disc collection of her first recordings, made in the mid-to-late '30s with the good-timey Chick Webb Orchestra. For one thing, it's pure swing in the Benny Goodman/Woody Herman tradition, with little of the blues influence of her later, more ballad-heavy work. Bouncy tunes like the sly 'When I Get Low I Get High' and the novelty 'Mr. Paganini,' along with offbeat selections like 'Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,' predominate, lending these two discs the giddy spirit that's the hallmark of the best swing music. What's even more surprising is Fitzgerald's voice. Whether due to her tender age (she was about 17 when she started singing with Webb) or the style of the times, Fitzgerald often sings in a high, breathy, girlish voice that's very much unlike her later honeyed tone. This may take some getting used to, but it's worth it."


First Issue: The Dinah Washington Story: The Original Recordings by Dinah Washington
CD 10209-10210  Check Availability
Image:First_issue_Dinah_Washington.jpg‎ From
"...The set chronicles Washington's evolution from a strictly jazz and blues vocalist in the Bessie Smith tradition to an important crossover artist who could appeal equally to the pop audience. The collection is not entirely hit-oriented -- although it rounds up her important R&B and pop singles, including the crossover hits 'What a Diff'rence a Day Made' and 'Baby, You've Got What It Takes' (a duet with Brook Benton), there is also an early bluesy session with Lionel Hampton and a few notable album tracks that show the variety of material she handled..." - Greg Adams
The Roulette Years: Volumes One/Two by Sarah Vaughan
CD 2575  Check Availability
Image:Roulette_years_volumes_one_two_Sarah_Vaughan.jpg‎ From
"This CD contains 24 selections, so one cannot complain about its brevity, but it would have been preferable to have Sarah Vaughan's Roulette albums reissued in full (a few have been) rather than putting out this sampler. For the beginner there are many fine performances on the jazz-oriented set, with Sassy's accompaniment ranging from guitar-bass duets and the Count Basie Big Band to string orchestras. Exact recording dates are not given (which is rather inexcusable), but the music is consistently enjoyable, with some of the high points being 'Just in Time,' 'Have You Met Miss Jones,' 'Perdido,' Round Midnight,' 'I'll Be Seeing You,' and 'Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.'" - Scott Yanow


The Specialty Sessions by Little Richard
CD 538-540  Check Availability
Image:Specialty_Sessions_Little_Richard.jpg‎ From
"Dig it: a collection of all 73 songs that Little Richard cut for Specialty Records from 1955 through 1959, including early working versions of hits including 'Long Tall Sally' and 'Slippin' and Slidin',' may seem like overkill to the casual listener, but if you're thinking of buying this three-CD box, chances are you're not a casual listener. And if you're not thinking about it, then you should be. This set covers only four years in Little Richard's career, but manages to sum up virtually everything you need to know about him..." - Bruce Eder
The Sun Sessions CD by Elvis Presley
CD 10653  Check Availability
Image:Sun_Sessions_Elvis(2).jpg‎ From
"This is it, your perfect starting point to understanding how Elvis -- as Howlin' Wolf so aptly put it -- "made his pull from the blues." All the source points are here for the hearing; Arthur Crudup's 'That's All Right (Mama),' Roy Brown's 'Good Rockin' Tonight,' Kokomo Arnold's 'Milkcow Blues Boogie,' Arthur Gunter's 'Baby, Let's Play House,' and Junior Parker's 'Mystery Train.' Modern day listeners coming to these recordings for the first time will want to reclassify this music into a million subgenres, with all the hyphens firmly in place. But what we ultimately have here is a young Elvis Presley, mixing elements of blues, gospel, and hillbilly music together and getting ready to unleash its end result -- rock & roll -- on an unsuspecting world." - Cub Koda


The Very Best of Connie Francis by Connie Francis
CD 882  Check Availability
Image:Very_best_of_Connie_Francis.jpg‎ From
"Connie Francis's first hits compilation contained the ten chart singles she scored from the start of 1958 to the fall of 1959, tracing both her ability to resurrect old chestnuts as Top Ten hits with 'Who's Sorry Now' and 'My Happiness' and the nearly equal success she enjoyed with rock & roll songs like 'Lipstick on Your Collar' and 'Stupid Cupid.' Other, lesser hits aspired to the same styles -- 'I'm Sorry I Made You Cry' was a retread of 'Who's Sorry Now' and 'Fallin was another rocker -- but the big hits were enough to make Francis the hottest singer of the period, and these were the recordings that gave her that status." - William Ruhlmann
Doo Wop from Dolphin's of Hollywood. Vol. 1 with various contributors
CD 536  Check Availability
Image:Doo_Wop.jpg‎ From
"This mid-'50s Los Angeles doo wop was produced by John Dolphin. Groups include the Turbans, the Voices, the Gassers, Bobby Relf, the Turks, Gaynell Hodge and the Blue-Aires, Bobby Byrd, and the Jaguars." - All Music Guide


Star Time by James Brown
CD 741-744  Check Availability
Image:Star_time_james_brown.jpg‎ From
"Star Time got everything right: it put Brown's hugely influential career into striking perspective, helping to complete his critical renaissance, and the richness of its music set a standard for box sets in general. It was no easy task to balance Brown's lengthy, multi-part funk workouts with the need to include all of his most significant tracks, and the compilers did an excellent job in deciding when and when not to truncate ("Cold Sweat," for example, must be heard in its entirety)." - Steve Huey
Hitsville USA: The Motown Singles Collection 1959-1971 with various contributors
CD 1354-1357  Check Availability
Image:Hitsville_USA_Motown_Singles.jpg‎ From
"...There are a handful of wonderful lesser-known songs here, such as the Contours' 'First I Look at the Purse,' but the main strength of the 103-track box is that it features all of the biggest songs from Motown's golden era in one place. Collectors could have used a more comprehensive set, and the box itself could have been packaged with a little more care (there are no artists listed on the back of the individual discs, only songs), but Hitsville USA stands as a definitive overview and introduction to one of the most groundbreaking labels in pop music history." - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan
CD 2684  Check Availability
Image:Highway_61_revisited.jpg‎ From
"...Opening with the epic 'Like a Rolling Stone,' Highway 61 Revisited careens through nine songs that range from reflective folk-rock ('Desolation Row') and blues ('It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry') to flat-out garage rock ('Tombstone Blues,' 'From a Buick 6,' 'Highway 61 Revisited'). Dylan had not only changed his sound, but his persona, trading the folk troubadour for a streetwise, cynical hipster. Throughout the album, he embraces druggy, surreal imagery, which can either have a sense of menace or beauty, and the music reflects that, jumping between soothing melodies to hard, bluesy rock. And that is the most revolutionary thing about Highway 61 Revisited -- it proved that rock & roll needn't be collegiate and tame in order to be literate, poetic, and complex." - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Joan Baez. Volume 1 by Joan Baez
CD 6573  Check Availability
Image:Joan_Baez_volume_1.jpg‎ From
"In retrospect, Joan Baez's 1960 debut doesn't sound like the work of a person who would go on to be proclaimed the queen of folk music, but on the other hand, Bob Dylan's first album doesn't sound like he'd be named the king, either. A plainly-produced, live-sounding voice and guitar album--Fred Hellerman plays second guitar on a handful of tracks--featuring a repertoire of traditional folk songs, Volume 1 doesn't sound that different from the debuts of Carolyn Hester, Judy Collins or any number of other female folk singers who first gained prominence around this time. (In fact, Baez's less famous sister Mimi Farina clearly has the better voice of the two.) However, Volume 1 is a fine example of traditional folk as it was presented in the coffeehouses of Cambridge and Greenwich Village in the late '50s and early '60s."


Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of the Beach Boys by the Beach Boys
CD 12773-12777  Check Availability
Image:Good_Vibrations_beach_boys.jpg‎ From
"From a previously unreleased 1961 recording of their first single 'Surfin' to their 1988 #1, 'Kokomo,' Good Vibrations collects everything anyone would want to hear by The Beach Boys. The first disc in this 5-disc set collects the sun and surf hits like 'Barbara Ann' and 'Fun, Fun, Fun' that summed up the mythical California dream for generations of Americans. While The Beach Boys certainly created some wonderful rock and roll in their 1962-1966 heyday, it's for the brilliant music on discs two and three that they have become rock legends."
The Capitol Albums. Vol. 1 by the Beatles
CD 24967-24970  Check Availability
Image:Capitol_Albums_beatles.jpg‎ From
"Although America wasn't the first to catch on to the Beatles, it certainly gave the Fabs a worldwide stage from which to launch their pop music invasion. During the space of 12 months in 1964, Capitol released four Beatles LPs that reshuffled various British Parlophone LPs, EPs, and singles. The result of this rejiggering was four unique titles that, along with those famed Ed Sullivan performances, were the introduction to this global phenomenon for millions in the United States. For the 40th anniversary of these releases, this 2004 set represents the first time these titles were ever available on CD, and features both mono and stereo (or 'duophonic') versions of all the songs."


I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You by Aretha Franklin
CD 7007  Check Availability
Image:I_never_loved_a_man_Aretha_Franklin.jpg‎ From
"While the inclusion of 'Respect' -- one of the truly seminal singles in pop history -- is in and of itself sufficient to earn I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You classic status, Aretha Franklin's Atlantic label debut is an indisputable masterpiece from start to finish. Much of the credit is due to producer Jerry Wexler, who finally unleashed the soulful intensity so long kept under wraps during her Columbia tenure; assembling a crack Muscle Shoals backing band along with an abundance of impeccable material, Wexler creates the ideal setting to allow Aretha to ascend to the throne of Queen of Soul, and she responds with the strongest performances of her career..." - Jason Ankeny
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Big Hits: High Tide and Green Grass by The Rolling Stones
CD 10379  Check Availability
Image:Big_hits_high_tide_Green_graass.jpg‎ From
"Like its 1969 second volume Through The Past Darkly, Big Hits (High Tide & Green Grass) is a fine collection of '60s Stones classics, but it's a rather bluesier one. This is exemplified by such rootsy tracks as the redefined Buddy Holly tune 'Not Fade Away' and the R&B bounce of Bobby Womack's 'It's All Over Now.' Not that the group's original songs were lacking in grit or attitude; the vituperative 'Get Off My Cloud,' delivered in Mick Jagger's best Sidcup dialect still sounds magnificent, as does Brian Jones's booming Vox pearl guitar on 'The Last Time' and Keith Richards's opening chords to the aforementioned 'Not Fade Away.' This is a disc to be handed down to your children."
Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airplane
CD 14951  Check Availability
Image:Surrealistic_Pillow.jpg‎ From
"The second album by Jefferson Airplane, Surrealistic Pillow was a groundbreaking piece of folk-rock-based psychedelia, and it hit -- literally -- like a shot heard round the world; where the later efforts from bands like the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and especially, the Charlatans, were initially not too much more than cult successes, Surrealistic Pillow rode the pop charts for most of 1967, soaring into that rarefied Top Five region occupied by the likes of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and so on, to which few American rock acts apart from the Byrds had been able to lay claim since 1964." - Bruce Eder
Janis by Janis Joplin
CD 1245-1247  Check Availability
Image:Janis_janis_joplin.jpg‎ From
"This three-CD box set is the most thorough and valuable retrospective of Janis Joplin's career. Besides including all of her most essential recordings with and without Big Brother & the Holding Company, this 49-song package features quite a few enticing rarities; 18 of the tracks were previously unissued. These include a 1962 home recording of the Joplin original 'What Good Can Drinkin' Do,' which marked the first time her singing was captured on tape; a pair of acoustic blues tunes from 1965 with backup guitar by future Jefferson Airplane star Jorma Kaukonen, an acoustic demo of 'Me and Bobby McGee,' a 1970 birthday song for John Lennon, and live performances from her appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1969." - Richie Unterberger


Court and Spark by Joni Mitchell
CD 4591  Check Availability
Image:Court_and_spark.jpg‎ From
"Joni Mitchell reached her commercial high point with Court and Spark, a remarkably deft fusion of folk, pop, and jazz which stands as her best-selling work to date. While as unified and insightful as Blue, the album -- a concept record exploring the roles of honesty and trust in relationships, romantic and otherwise -- moves away from confessional songwriting into evocative character studies: the hit 'Free Man in Paris,' written about David Geffen, is a not-so-subtle dig at the machinations of the music industry, while 'Raised on Robbery' offers an acutely funny look at the predatory environment of the singles bar scene..." - Jason Ankeny
Led Zeppelin by Led Zeppelin
CD 690-693  Check Availability
Image:Led_Zeppelin.jpg‎ From
"Led Zeppelin had a fully formed, distinctive sound from the outset, as their eponymous debut illustrates. Taking the heavy, distorted electric blues of Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Cream to an extreme, Zeppelin created a majestic, powerful brand of guitar rock constructed around simple, memorable riffs and lumbering rhythms. But the key to the group's attack was subtlety: it wasn't just an onslaught of guitar noise, it was shaded and textured, filled with alternating dynamics and tempos. As Led Zeppelin proves, the group was capable of such multi-layered music from the start." - Stephen Thomas Erlewine


Sweet Baby James by James Taylor
CD 4833  Check Availability
Image:Sweet_baby_james.jpg‎ From
"The heart of James Taylor's appeal is that you can take him two ways. On the one hand, his music, including that warm voice, is soothing; its minor key melodies and restrained playing draw in the listener. On the other hand, his world view, especially on such songs as 'Fire and Rain,' reflects the pessimism and desperation of the 1960s hangover that was the early '70s." - William Ruhlmann
The Birth of Soul by Ray Charles
CD 6083-6085  Check Availability
Image:Voice_The_Birth_of_Soul.jpg‎ From the publisher:
This absolutely essential three-disc box is where soul music first took shape and soared, courtesy of Ray Charles' church-soaked pipes and bedrock piano work.
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Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder
CD 5204-5205  Check Availability
Image:Songs_in_the_key_of_life.jpg‎ From
"Songs in the Key of Life was Stevie Wonder's longest, most ambitious collection of songs, a two-LP (plus accompanying EP) set that -- just as the title promised -- touched on nearly every issue under the sun, and did it all with ambitious (even for him), wide-ranging arrangements and some of the best performances of Wonder's career." - John Bush
Greatest Hits 1970-2002 by Elton John
CD 21286-21288  Check Availability
Image:Greatest_Hits_1970-2002_Elton_John.jpg‎ From
"...The archetypal singer-songwriter introspection of 'Your Song' kicks things off, giving way in short order to the more glam pop moments of 'Honky Cat' and 'Saturday Night's All Right For Fighting.' The Roy Orbison-like ballad 'Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me' and the moving, mournful 'Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word' represent the sadder side of the usually sunny popster. The second disc digs into Elton's later work, coming up with such gems as the surprisingly rocking 'I Don't Wanna Go On With You Like That' and the Beatleseque 'I Want Love,' the latter proving that the 21st century found Elton still standing, in artistic terms."


The Stranger by Billy Joel
CD 5852  Check Availability
Image:Stranger_billy_joel.jpg‎ From
"...Even if [Joel's] melodies sound more Broadway than Beatles -- the epic suite 'Scenes From an Italian Restaurant' feels like a show-stopping closer -- there's no denying that the melodies of each song on The Stranger are memorable, so much so that they strengthen the weaker portions of the album. Joel rarely wrote a set of songs better than those on The Stranger, nor did he often deliver an album as consistently listenable." - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Thriller by Michael Jackson
CD 6090  Check Availability
Image:Thriller.jpg‎ From
"The highly-polished sound of Quincy Jones's production sounds almost organic compared to Jackson's more recent work, and in the same regard, Thriller was significantly slicker than its predecessor, Off the Wall...On the song 'Thriller,' Jackson indulged his taste for the juvenile and invited Vincent Price to rap in a really scary voice. With Thriller the album, Jackson created a different kind of monster--a hit album of such magnitude that it would have an irrevocable impact not just on the singer's art, but on his altogether kooky life." - John Milward


The Immaculate Collection by Madonna
CD 317  Check Availability
Image:Immaculate_collection.jpg‎ From
"If you're only going to get one Madonna record, or if you want to find out what the fuss is about, start here. The Immaculate Collection compiles the cream of Madonna's '80s singles, from the dancefloor innocence of 'Holiday' to the soul-searching pop of 'Live To Tell' and 'Like A Prayer' to the forward-looking, beat-crazy stylings of 'Vogue.' Included are a few singles, 'Vogue' among them, that didn't make it onto any of Madonna's proper studio albums, and a couple of cuts exclusive to the collection, most notably the weird, Lenny Kravitz-produced 'Justify My Love.'"
Sign "o" the Times by Prince
CD 9355-9356  Check Availability
Image:Sign_o_the_times.jpg‎ From
"Fearless, eclectic, and defiantly messy, Prince's Sign 'O' the Times falls into the tradition of tremendous, chaotic double albums like The Beatles, Exile on Main St., and London Calling -- albums that are fantastic because of their overreach, their great sprawl. Prince shows nearly all of his cards here, from bare-bones electro-funk and smooth soul to pseudo-psychedelic pop and crunching hard rock, touching on gospel, blues, and folk along the way." - Stephen Thomas Erlewine


-- But Seriously by Phil Collins
CD 87  Check Availability
Image:But_seriously.jpg‎ From
"Spawning four hit singles, But Seriously topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. While pursuing much of the same formula as on No Jacket Required, there was also a move toward more organic production as Collins abandoned some of the drum machines and prominent keyboards in the up-tempo numbers in favor of live instrumentation. The decision was a good one as there's no doubt that tracks such as 'Find a Way to My Heart' and 'Hang in Long Enough' have enough bite to outlast his more dated sounding mid-80s material." - Geoff Orens
Any Love by Luther Vandross
CD 2711  Check Availability
Image:Any_love.jpg‎ From
"There were some who felt that Vandross suffered a slight slump when this album only reached the platinum level after two consecutive double-platinum winners. But 'Here And Now' was a huge smash, and by now the pop crowd was fully aware of Vandross' vocal charms and allure. 'She Won't Talk To Me' was a bit on the posturing side, but still managed to do decently, while there were also fine album cuts like 'I Wonder' and 'Are You Gonna Love Me.'" - Ron Wynn


Rapture by Anita Baker
CD 14335  Check Availability
Image:Rapture_anita_baker.jpg‎ From
"Rapture gave Baker one moving hit after another, including 'Sweet Love,' 'Caught up in the Rapture,' 'Same Ole Love,' and 'No One in This World.' Praising Baker in a 1986 interview, veteran R&B critic Steve Ivory asserted, 'To me, singers like Anita Baker and Frankie Beverly define what R&B or soul music is all about.' Indeed, Rapture's tremendous success made it clear that there was still a sizeable market for adult-oriented, more traditional R&B singing." - Alex Henderson
Whitney Houston by Whitney Houston
CD 5315  Check Availability
Image:Whitney_houston.jpg‎ From
"As big a hit as it was -- and it was a multi-platinum blockbuster, spinning off several chart-toppers -- it’s not easy to think of Whitney Houston’s 1985 debut as the dawning of a new era, but it was. Arriving in the thick of MTV, when the slick sounds of yacht-soul were fading, Whitney Houston is the foundation of diva-pop, straddling clean, cheery R&B and big ballads designed with the adult contemporary audience in mind." - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Greatest Hits by New Kids On The Block
CD 30363  Check Availability
Image:Greatest_hits_new_kids_on_the_block.jpg‎ From
"In the second half of the 1980s, the New Kids on the Block were the ultimate teen idols, taking the pop charts by storm and starting a whole wave of boy bands. Greatest Hits brings together their finest moments, and reveals just how seamless the group's mix of cotton-candy pop hooks, R&B-influenced vocal delivery, hip-hop-inflected grooves, and bad-boy rock-star attitude really was, from the forceful rap-meets-rock 'Hangin' Tough' to the pleading, romantic balladry of 'Please Don't Go Girl.'"
Definition of a Band by Mint Condition
CD 11252  Check Availability
Image:Definition_of_a_band.jpg‎ From
"Mint Condition's third album, Definition of a Band is the smoothest effort yet from the swingbeat group. Again, lead singer Stokley Williams steals the show with his surging, passionate vocals, which are so affecting that you often wish that the songwriting was more distinguished, along the lines of the hit single 'What Kind of Man Would I Be.'" - Leo Stanley


Live at the Gorge 05/06 by Pearl Jam
CD 29229-29235  Check Availability
Image:Live_at_the_Gorge_pearl_jam.jpg‎ From
"Live At The Gorge 05/06, released in 2007, is a mammoth seven-disc set that captures the band's crackling live energy. Representing two years of in-concert material, Live At The Gorge reveals Peal Jam as dazzling, road-tested rockers capable of putting on shows that make their studio efforts pale in comparison. The generous set draws from the band's catalogue, and features classic Pearl Jam originals ('Alive,' 'Even Flow') and amped-up covers (Neil Young's 'Rockin' In the Free World,' the Who's 'Baba O'Reily,' and Jimi Hendrix's 'Little Wing.')"
Britney by Britney Spears
CD 19732  Check Availability
Image:Britney_britney_Spears.jpg‎ From
"The title says it all -- that this third album is where it's all about Britney. Actually, the titles say it all: Britney is 'Overprotected,' she pleads 'I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,' tries to let us all see 'What It's Like to Be Me.' All three songs are pivotal moments on Britney Spears' third album, the record where she strives to deepen her persona (not the same thing as her character, of course), making it more adult while still recognizably Britney." - Stephen Thomas Erlewine


Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey
CD 345  Check Availability
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"This extremely impressive debut is replete with smooth-sounding ballads and uplifting dance/R&B cuts. Carey convincingly seizes many opportunities to display her incredible vocal range on such memorable tracks as the popular 'Vision of Love' (featured during her television debut on The Arsenio Hall Show, an appearance noted by many as her formal introduction to stardom), the energetic 'Someday,' and the moody sounds of the hidden treasure 'Vanishing.' With this collection of songs acting as a springboard for future successes, Carey establishes a strong standard of comparison for other breakthrough artists of this genre." - Ashley S. Battel
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Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette
CD 1914  Check Availability
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"It's remarkable that Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill struck a sympathetic chord with millions of listeners, because it's so doggedly, determinedly insular. This, after all, plays like an emotional purging, prompted by a bitter relationship -- and, according to all the lyrical hints, that's likely a record executive who took advantage of a young Alanis. She never disguises her outright rage and disgust, whether it's the vengeful wrath of 'You Oughta Know' or asking him "you scan the credits for your name and wonder why it's not there." This is such insider information that it's hard to believe that millions of listeners not just bought it, but embraced it, turning Alanis Morisette into a mid-'90s phenomenon." - Stephen Thomas Erlewine


Sheryl Crow by Sheryl Crow
CD 8066  Check Availability
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"Hiring noted roots experimentalists Tchad Blake and Mitchell Froom as engineer and consultant, respectively, Sheryl Crow took a cue from their Latin Playboys project for her second album -- she kept her roots rock foundation and added all sorts of noises, weird instruments, percussion loops, and off-balance production to give Sheryl Crow a distinctly modern flavor. And, even with the Stonesy grind of 'Sweet Rosalyn' or hippie spirits of 'Love Is a Good Thing,' it is an album that couldn't have been made any other time than the '90s. As strange as it may sound, Sheryl Crow is a postmodern masterpiece of sorts -- albeit a mainstream, post-alternative, postmodern masterpiece." - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Live Through This (performed by Hole) by Courtney Love
CD 1338  Check Availability
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"Courtney Love completely revamped Hole before recording their second album, keeping only Eric Erlandson in the lineup. That is one of the reasons why Live Through This sounds so shockingly different from Pretty on the Inside, but the real reason is Love's desire to compete in the same commercial alternative rock arena as her husband, Kurt Cobain. In fact, many rumors have claimed that Cobain ghostwrote a substantial chunk of the album, and while that's unlikely, there's no denying that his patented stop-start dynamics, bare chords, and punk-pop melodies provide the blueprint for Live Through This." - Stephen Thomas Erlewine


Christina Aguilera by Christina Aguilera
CD 15873  Check Availability
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"Christina Aguilera rocketed to the top of the charts with the smash hit 'Genie in a Bottle' from this self-titled debut and placed herself among a leading generation of young, multi-talented pop artists... Songs such as 'What a Girl Wants' with its guitar-driven melody, and the soulful gospel strain of 'So Emotional" show Christina Aguilera's polish. Some of the other tracks that stand out are the powerful "I Turn to You,' which was written by Diane Warren; 'Reflection,' which was produced by Matthew Wilder; and the dance floor mover 'Love Will Find a Way,' from hit makers Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers."
Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite by Maxwell
CD 8098  Check Availability
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"Although Al Green and Marvin Gaye are obvious touchstones, Maxwell avoids vocal theft, instead appropriating the way those singers inextricably meld their music and their sensuality. The breathy quiet-storm sax that closes out 'Welcome' is as much a part of the sexual vibe as the sinewy funk and propulsive rhythm of 'Ascension (Don't Ever Wonder).' Oozing with sensuality, Urban Suite is a soundtrack for an evening of romance."


I Am: Sasha Fierce by Beyoncé
CD 30690-30691  Check Availability
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"I Am. Sasha Fierce represents another change of pace for Beyoncé. Unlike the relatively streamlined, retro-soul inflected B'Day, I Am... is a sprawling two-disc set designed to reflect two conflicting sides of Beyoncé's musical personality. The first disc sports reflective, sometimes moody ballads, while the second, attributed to Beyoncé's brash alter ego, Sasha Fierce, is loaded with propulsive dance-floor fillers."
What's the 411? by Mary J. Blige
CD 21774  Check Availability
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"The opening track 'Leave A Message' is an immediately intriguing hook for the listener. A series of answering machine messages over a funky drum beat does not fail, even though most callers insist on saying 'peace' instead of 'goodbye' at the end of every call. The artist first appears on track two, and stays in control throughout an album of high-quality urban R&B/soul. Highly commercial, yet it never sinks to the blandness of some other 90s female pop acts. Tracks such as 'Real Love' lend more to the best of Aretha Franklin pop flirtations than to 90s R&B. Blige is Aretha's heir apparent."


Back to Black by Amy Winehouse
CD 29052  Check Availability
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"Back To Black's production is an artful blend of sophisticated '60s R&B and 21st-century stylistic poaching, with 'Tears Dry on Their Own' incorporating elements of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough,' and Winehouse sounding like Billie Holiday fronting a reggae band on the old-fashioned cheating song "Just Friends." Densely packed with musical history and often conjuring a dark, Portishead-esque atmosphere, Back To Black is a sumptuous-sounding collection freighted with blunt confessionals of a lush life."
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