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R & B ~ Soul

    POSTED 24 MAY 2001

    "Stay Human" Spearhead Our price: $12.99 | You save: $3.98
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    Who is this generation's Marvin Gaye? It may well be Spearhead leader Michael Franti. He sings and speaks from the heart, haunted by hollow words and hypocrisy. "Stay Human" is Franti's "What's Going On," a risky, gorgeous album that dissects our society's sicknesses and posits soul music as a cure. This music is equal parts hip-hop attitude, R&B grooves, and poetic intelligence. A must-have.

    "Olivia [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" Olivia Our price: $14.99 | You save: $2.98
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    Olivia's banging first single, "Bizounce," is another one of those finger-wagging feminine anthems, and it's already propelling Olivia to star status. Expect more sassy attitude from her debut.

    "Inspiration Information" Shuggie Otis Our price: $12.99 | You save: $3.98
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    Shuggie Otis's 1973 masterpiece, "Inspiration Information," has finally been reissued, and it's well worth the wait. A soulful classic with touches of psychedelic rock, it also features early and interesting uses of drum machines.

    "Miss E...So Addictive [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" Missy Elliott Our price: $13.99 | You save: $4.98
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    Consistent hit-maker Missy Elliott's latest delves into freakier territory than her past two efforts. Still collaborating with beat genius Timbaland, Missy is branching out into the world of seduction, with both her raps and her improving vocals.

    COMING SOON

    "Songs in A Minor" Alicia Keys Our price: $14.99 | You save: $2.98
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    If there is any justice in the world, 20-year-old singer Alicia Keys will be a superstar. Her debut, "Songs in A Minor," not only introduces the world to her gorgeous, emotive voice, but it also showcases her great arrangements (she's a classically trained pianist). Definitely one to watch.

    "Everybody Got Their Something" Nikka Costa Our price: $13.99 | You save: $3.98
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    The latest entry in the retro-soul sweepstakes is Nikka Costa, with her North American debut, "Everybody Got Their Something." The first single, "Like a Feather," is a churning hunk of burning funk, and the rest of the album continues in the same raucous, groove-heavy vein.

    EYE CANDY

    "2000 Watts [EXPLICIT LYRICS]" Tyrese Our price: $14.99 | You save: $2.98
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    Some singers are more about the whole package than just the voice. Model and VJ Tyrese falls into this category, and judging by the name of his sophomore album, "2000 Watts," he's aware that he has more to offer the camera than the ear. A few saucy Jermaine Dupri productions sound good, but the many soft-core ballads here lack bump and grind. Tyrese is too cute to compute.

    FREE DIGITAL MUSIC

    "Soul Sista [CD5/Cassette] [CD-SINGLE]" Bilal Our price: $3.99
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    Philly soul slinger Bilal has one of the buzziest names in the business. His first single, the sweet downtown serenade "Soul Sista," lives up to the hype. Check it out while anticipating his debut album, "First Born Second," slated for a June release.

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    STORMY WEATHER

    "Let Me Love You: The Force M.D.'s Greatest Hits [EXTRA TRACKS]" Force M.D's Our price: $13.99 | You save: $2.98
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    Originators of harmonized hip-hop and hopeless romantics, Force M.D.'s recall a time when Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis could do no wrong. Oh wait, they can still do no wrong (that's why Janet's latest rules the charts). But the Force M.D.'s' tender lovin' is '80s nostalgia at its best. Ride their quiet storm back to a simpler time.

    "All For You"
    Janet Jackson
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    On Janet Jackson's latest release, she takes her patented hit-making skills for a walk on the wild side. While in the past she balanced her good-girl image with a touch of sex appeal, "All for You" showcases Jackson's sexuality more than ever before. In this case, you can judge the CD by its cover.

    Representing Macy Gray's first foray into managing, Sunshine Anderson has a gorgeous voice, a whole lot of soul, and a strong female perspective. "Your Woman" tackles R&B's favorite four-letter word, L-O-V-E, with style, grace, and a fresh perspective. No mean feat.

    "The Brothers (2001 Film) [SOUNDTRACK]"
    Original Soundtrack
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    Like the film itself, "The Brothers Soundtrack" takes a look at love and relationships from the perspective of thoughtful African American men. From the father-son duet, "Two of a Kind" (by Eddie and Gerald Levert), to Eric Benet's sultry "Love Don't Love Me," many R&B lovemen chime in with their own takes on the age-old subject.

    "Not That Kind [ECD]"
    Anastacia (R&B)
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    Anastacia's powerful voice recalls Taylor Dayne's, and "Not That Kind"'s fusion of modern R&B production (a la Timbaland), dancefloor pop, and an old-school funk vibe give her music broad appeal.

    ROUGHNECK ROMANTICS

    "Open Letter"
    Case
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    Few singers develop as much in their career as rough-around-the-edges soulster Case. With his latest, "Open Letter," he further explores the unique combination of the tough and the tender that he has hinted at in past efforts. With excellent production by the legendary teams of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and Tim & Bob, Case's emotive voice and lovelorn lyrics shine brightly. This is an excellent disc.

    "The Life"
    Ginuwine
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    R&B slickster/MTV sex symbol Ginuwine continues to walk the line between sincerity and sleaze. On his latest shiny album, "The Life," he focuses predominantly on turbo-powered ballads, and his stock-in-trade subject matter (sex, designer clothing, and love). It's definitely the stuff teen dreams are made of.

    CRUISIN' DOWN MEMORY LANE

    "Re-Members Only"
    Sylk 130
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    The second installment of Philly DJ King Britt's time-travelling trilogy, "Re-Members Only" pays musical homage to the '80s. Working with great collaborators (like De La Soul and Alison Moyet), Britt skillfully captures the vibe of the decade without dwelling on the not-so-good musical times.

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    "Ghetto Love"
    Jaheim
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    Another singer of the tough-but-tender school of soul, Jaheim combines street wisdom with loving feelings to great effect on his perfectly named debut, "Ghetto Love." Sample one of this young star's sultry jams, "Could It Be," now.

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    IT'S A FAMILY AFFAIR

    "Chapter 1: Love, Pain & Forgiveness"
    Syleena Johnson
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    Singer Syleena Johnson has great genes and she knows how to use them. The daughter of R&B legend Syl Johnson, she has a gorgeous, soulful alto voice, and combines it with a sassy, mature womanliness that's often MIA in the modern R&B scene. Her major-label debut, "Chapter 1: Love, Pain & Forgiveness," should do the family proud.

    "Talkin' Bout Chicago"
    Syl Johnson
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    The writer of "Take Me to the River," Syl Johnson's timeless rhythm and blues of the sweet 'n' lowdown variety sounds as good now as it sounded years ago. His latest, "Talkin' Bout Chicago," balances raucous blues stompers with sweetheart serenades.

    CHART QUEENS

    "The Motown Anthology"
    Diana Ross
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    Diana Ross's ability to dominate the charts was due, in large part, to her lovely girlish voice, the stuff that dreams are made of. "The Motown Anthology" captures her magic, including her biggest hits, in this excellent collection. With songs like "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "Upside Down," you can't go wrong.

    "Design Of A Decade 1986/1996"
    Janet Jackson
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    An excellent greatest hits collection, "Design of a Decade" serves to cement Ms. Jackson's position as pop queen. With fun, danceable arrangements and great girl-next-door magnetism, Jackson's enduring appeal should be further proven by her latest effort, "All for You."

    FEED YOUR MUSICAL APPETITE

    The newest titles, the hottest bands, our favorite discoveries--let our expert editors e-mail you the best of the music world with Delivers. Choose your favorite genres to begin receiving more e-mail recommendations. AND check out the New & Future Releases page to view titles by release date, catch the latest digital downloads, investigate the coolest new reissues, and more.
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    "PART III"
    112
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    Bad Boy's resident gentlemen, 112, continue to deliver their sweet-natured hip-hop soul with their third album, "Part III." Crooners in the best sense of the word, 112 unite their full vocals with funkified groove-heavy beats.

    "Live Mix Part Two"
    Breakestra
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    Los Angeles's Breakestra is all about soul. The group's affection for the past, and their belief that the funk lives on, makes for an undeniably infectious album. "The Live Mix Part 2" rips through the legacy of funk, moving from one infamous breakbeat to the next, with cuts by the Meters, James Brown, and many more stitched seamlessly together in this recording of their live set. The group also adds a few original Breakestra songs to the mix, which are every bit as funky as the old-school ones.

    "Pleasures U Like"
    Jon B
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    With "Pleasures U Like," blue-eyed soulster Jon B continues his quest to recapture the magic of the mid-'90s slow-jam era, ruled by lovemen like Kenny Lattimore and Babyface. His smooth voice and the hip-hop inflected beats that he favors show that though B is white, he's got more in common with R. Kelly than with the Backstreet Boys and their R&B-lite colleagues.

    "J.E. Heartbreak" Jagged Edge
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    Released in early 2000, "J.E. Heartbreak" has legs. And it's no wonder: Jermaine Dupri's dream team concocts gorgeous ballads like "Promise," and the ladies have to listen up. Endearing with a hard gangsta pose that conceals an incurably romantic soul, they balance the sweetness with a little necessary roughness, living up to their name.

    ADVANCE ORDERS

    "The Life"
    Ginuwine
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    R&B's dancin' and romancin' dreamboat, the newly married (to rapstress Sole) Ginuwine returns with another album of his spicy, danceable R&B stylings with "The Life," including the heady first single "There It Is."

    EDITOR'S CHOICE

    "Acoustic Soul"
    India Arie
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    Atlanta-based singer-songwriter India.Arie's sweet, honest soul music is a refreshing change from R&B's dominant jigginess. Though on occasion she gets into cliched self-help territory, in general her debut, "Acoustic Soul," is a great example of a woman making music on her own terms, instead of according to "The Rules." On sultry songs like "Brown Skin," Arie's gorgeous alto, poetic lyrics, and guitar-laced, bassy arrangements shine.

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    London's Brand New Heavies put the soul in acid jazz. The "Trunk Funk Classics" greatest-hits collection unites their booty-shakin' gems in all their splendor. Included in this collection is a brand-new track, "Saturday Nite," featuring Mos Def. Download "Saturday Nite" now and feel the funk.

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    PRODUCER SPOTLIGHT: KAY GEE

    "Mars/Venus"
    Koffee Brown
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    Though they don't necessarily add that much to the "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus" dialog, Kay Gee proteges Koffee Brown are certainly an engaging version of the tried-and-true "he-said-she-said" shtick. Producer Gee's excellent, bouncy beats are contagious, and singers Vee and Fonz have great pipes. "All I Need (Bonnie and Clyde)" is the album's highlight, featuring a thick, low-slung beat and ghetto-love declarations, and it captures why Koffee Brown are more than just a gimmick: there's honest, painful, potent love in here.

    "Ghetto Love"
    Jaheim
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    In R&B singer Jaheim, the second of Kay Gee's recent proteges, Gee's perceptive marketing choices are evident. This one's for both the ladies and the gentlemen. A perfect combination of thug and passion, Jaheim's macho aesthetic stands in contrast to his smooth, gorgeous R&B vocals. Gee's fat hip-hop beats keep the balance between new and old, as Jaheim's voice recalls the likes of Donny Hathaway and Teddy Pendergrass. He's got soul by the truckload, and enough attitude to keep the roughnecks listening.

    FROM THE VAULTS

    Possibly the most important soul album ever, "What's Going On" gets an appropriately reverent treatment in this deluxe edition. With one disc of never-before-released live material, and an exhaustive booklet that chronicles the history of the release, this is an ideal package.
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    Minnie Riperton's short career was a prolific one, and by the time of her death at age 31 from breast cancer, she had provided a strong argument for herself as one of the most versatile, magical female vocalists of her generation. "Petals" is the first collection that really does her legacy justice, capturing her astounding range, sensitivity, and soul. It includes not only chart-toppers, but also hard-to-find vinyl-only rarities.
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    SOUNDTRACK SPOTLIGHT

    "The Brothers (2001 Film)"
    Various Artists - Soundtrack
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    The movie "The Brothers" is a flick about the love lives of African American men. It makes sense, therefore, that its soundtrack compiles work from R&B's brightest lovemen, interpreting the age-old emotion with their modern masculine sensibility. Among the artists included here are Jaheim, Dave Hollister, Eric Benet, and Mos Def.

    "Save the Last Dance (2001 Film)"
    Various Artists - Soundtracks
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    The soundtrack to this modern-day "Footloose" combines hot R&B and rap into a thoroughly, and appropriately, foot-friendly collection. With R&B notables like Lucy Pearl, K-Ci and JoJo, and Donell Jones, this soundtrack can't go wrong, and doesn't.

Editor, Elizabeth Mendez Berry © 2001 amazon.com and associate ncdn associates of amazon.com,bn,tower,cdnow

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reviews excerpted are copyright © 2001 amazon.com & associate ncdn and CDnow, TowerRecords, Barnes & Nobel associates