But now, onto this years list.
10. Tyler Woods - The Mahogany Experiment
Presented by 9th Wonder (more of which later), this was a FREE EP released earlier in the year. Yes. I said it. FREE (more of which, again, later). So if you dont got it.....why the hell not?
All tracks on the LP were produced by 9th Wonder except the single “Lost In Your Love.” which in no way sounds out of place, the EP also features guest appearances from Talib Kweli and Styles P. Tyler gives props to the sounds of those he admires, (Jodeci, Marvin Gaye, and Al Green) whilst creating some great mid tempo soul tunes. GO GET!!
9.Phonte - Charity starts at Home + 9th Wonder - The Wonder Years -
Earlier this year, we tweeted that if you mashed up these two LP's into 1, you would have the best Hip Hop LP of the year. So eff it, its my blog, thats what I'm gonna do. These guys are all over each others work so thats all the excuse I need!
For "Charity starts at home", the LP resembles, IMO, FE's first LP, "Connected". Phonte shows off his rhyming skills to full effect on tunes like "The Life of Kings", "Who loves you more" and one of my faves, "Sending my love." Grown Folks Hip Hop for sure. Again, featuring 9th Wonder on production duties for some tracks, leading us to his LP "The Wonder Years."
Featuring the expected great production, with always a soulful inflection, featuring artists like Erykah Badu, Phonte, Terrace Martin, Teedra Moses and Marsha Ambrosius, the rhymes are hot, the vocals compete and the LP features one of my tunes of the year in "One Night" that was featured on a previous Street Sounds. Hot.
Mash these LP's up and realise Hip Hop aint dead.
8.Julie Dexter - New Again
Female vocalists have run things this year for real. (MORE LATER!!) This is one quality LP, full of Soul, Organic and sometimes Jazzy, its one of the rare LP's you can listen to from start to finish. "Sunshine" kicks things off right, a mid temp track with some great instrumentation, "Blue Skies" is another 70's mid tempo groove, "Love2Love" recalls Mr Gaye in its bridge, and elsewhere theres latin influence, soulful house grooves and lots more Soul. A Must purchase.
7.DJ Jazzy Jeff & Ayah - Back for more
Did I say "more later" when mentioning Tyler Woods Free EP? Then thats because of this. A free LP from another great produver, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and his recent muse, the great Ayah; with input from one of our "Great Producers" James Poyser this is another must have. How did Free music get so good?
What do you expect from these two artists? Oh well, you got it; Over 13 tracks. Jeff picks the samples and brings the beats; Ayah gives vocal attitude. Personal Faves? "One Life"; "Notorious"; "Be Alright" and "Tables Turn", but truth be said its a solid LP. Did I say it was free?
6.Josh Milan - Honeycomb music Volume 1
One half of renowned Soulful House duo BLAZE as well as writing, recording, and performing music with "Little Louie" Vega, dance music artist Barbara Tucker and producing giant Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez, Milan has finally launched his own record company, Honeycomb Music; He brings everything you expect to his new Showcase double LP.
Milan has written and produced a full length CD that features songs with Sandra St. Victor of "Family Stand" fame, ChinahBlac, Crystal Johnson, Cinnamon Brown, and Angela Johnson. House grooves that welcome Soul, Jazz and Latin influences with open arms, this is, hands Down, best Soulful House LP of the year.
5.Deborah Bond - Madame Palindrome
Yep. I said it. The female artists are running things. Deborah's previous outings have fallen into the "like" category for me rather than the "Love". Thats changed.
This LP kind of brings together the "Acid Jazz" sound with an electronic sound, showcased on tunes like "Nothing matters", "Blind Paradise" and the great single "You are the one." Tracks full of strings, bass lines and good grooves. And then theres the shiver down the spine soul of "Say it" with another hint of the Mizell Brothers in its execution that sends the LP into the top ranks for me. Another must purchase, if only for the good taste of hooking up with the UK's Lewis Taylor (Where you been?) on the funky, incognito like "If I didnt need you."
4.Eric Roberson - Mr Nice Guy
OK. An admission. I like this LP less than any other Erro LP. Does that make it bad? Nope. It has moments of genius (As you would expect) like the single "Picture Perfect" (Featuring tigallo tigallo tigallo again?!?!?) with its great beats and atmosphere, the great lyrics of the title track (Check out when the drums come in.....great stuff), and the old school Erro sounding "Shake her Hand".
So why the reservation? I dont know if its the upbeat sentiment behind some of the tunes. Erro has always been about yearning and loss, which feeds into the musicality and atmosphere of the tunes he writes and sings on. "Borrow you", "Pen just cries away", "Obstacles". All examples. Theres some of that here, but, for me, it feels different. And, I guess, I'm in the minority (See next weeks Review of the year as a famous friend of the blog recommends this LP as best of the year) as theres LOTS of love for this work.
But hell, I love this guy, and the LP has enough good stuff on there for me to heartily recommend a purchase.....so do that! Its one of my best LP's of the year still damn it!!
3.Jill Scott - From the Vault Volume 1
So, I talked earlier about female artists running things. Here's another example. But I also talked about controversy, so here it is.
The prospect of 2 Jill Scott LP's in one year blew me away. But there was bad news; I love Jill Scott. I was disappointed by her new LP, "Light of the Sun". There were moments on there, (weirdly, mostly the bonus tunes, but So in Love and Blessed were good value too) but it seemed commercial and light. There. I said it. And, as above, there are LOADS of people and artists that disagree with me.
In any case, the good news for me was that Hidden Beach, her old label that Jill had a public falling out with, released an LP of unreleased tunes (approved by Jill) that reminded me of why I love her. And these were out takes.
Tunes like "Running Away" had that "Words and Sounds Vol 2" feel, "Wondering Why", "I'm Prettier" and "Dear Mr. & Mrs. Record Industry" all provided what I would have expected from her first Warner Brothers LP. Soul, heart and more great lyrics. Even the DJ Jazzy Jeff produced "Lovely Day" (A song we should all be sick of from over playing rather than quality) was fun and vocally on point. Maybe "The Light" was meant to appeal to more commercially, I dont know. But to me it was a lesser work and Im hoping we get the full blown Jill Scott on her next Warners LP. In the Meantime, "The Vault Vol 1" will do me fine.
One thing though, for both LP's: That voice is still ON POINT!!!
2.Tracy Cruz - Universoul Symphony
Tracy has been on my radar for a while right back to when I first caught her on "Feel'osophy" back in '08. "Son-Shine" was a favorite of mine back then and she had a real Neo-Soul/RnB vibe to her.
"Universoul Symphony" ups the ante, and as the title suggests, added orchestration. "Mind Travel", "Dream Flight" and "Electricity" all have a new, modern sound but harks back to a funkier, organically soulful period in black music. However, standout track for me, and one of the best of the year IMO is "Love's Galaxy" that featured on a Street Sounds mix earlier this year and hasnt left my iPod playlist since. Purchase and support good independant music!
1.Electric Empire - Self titled
And here is my favorite LP of the year. When I say this harks back to the 70's it does so with no modern pretentions. This LP could have been released then. This Australian bands influences stand out a mile; Donny; Stevie; Marvin to name but 3. And Pastiche is not what they aim for. This LP is reverence.
You may have caught the single "Baby your lovin'" or the great Donny /Stevie flavored "Always" on a previous Street Sounds Mix. If you have then youll know the quality of this LP and it shines. Recently touring with UK Soul god Omar and Beverley Knight, (us lucky folks in the UK had a chance to see them live) which if you search for on Youtube, you can see how good these guys are.
Support these guys and lets get good......nah....GREAT soul music back in the charts (Like we did with Aloe Blak last year, one of our 2010 recommendations).
A great LP and worthy of standing next to Slakah the Beatchilds "Soul Movement" (2009) and Zo's "Sunstorm" (2010) as LP of the year.
In addition, there are a few LP's that deserve a mention:
Rapper Big Pooh - Dirty Pretty Things
Musiq - musiqinthemagiq
Zo! - Just Visiting THREE
Kindred the Family Soul
Miles Bonny - Lumberjack Soul
Anthony Hamilton - Back to Love
Havana - Entervention
Lalah Hathaway - Where it all begins
TwinSpirit - My Beautiful Ugly
Betty Wright & The Roots
Georgia Anne Muldrow - Owed to Mama Rickle
Mark De Clive Lowe - Renegades
Ledisi _ Pieces of me
Reel People - Golden Lady
So thats all from me, If you agree or disagree, let me know on the blog. We got to keep promoting good soul music of all varieties! Will be posting up a review of the year next week including The Mixtapes Songs of the year plus recommendations from some of the artists in this years best LP's LIST!!
Dont forget ive included last years best of mix that got deleted from Rapidshare up above, so you can compare and contrast.
But here is a feel of what we believe are the best LP's of 2011:
The Soul Mixtapes Top 11 LP's of 2011