BEST OF 2005
1.Denise LaSalle "Wanted" (Ecko)
The Queen Of Soul/Blues scored a huge Southern Soul hit with "Snap, Crackle & Pop". She also continued to show her songwriting prowess on numbers like "The Love You Threw Away" and "Doormat Woman". This was voted "Southern Soul CD Of The Year" in Blues Critic's Southern Soul Awards.
2. Lou Wilson & Today's People "Blues Groove" (Crew)
"Blues Groove" is so Bobby Rush funky I need a shower after listening. I'm not talking machine-produced funk I'm talking loose, hard-hitting, spankin' guitar Blues funky. All of us, whether we're a critic, performer, businessman or just a music lover, have a personal list of artists who we adamantly insist should be better known instead of the many manufactured, over-hyped pop tarts who saturate our collective consciousness. Lou Wilson is one of those terrific secrets that needs to be told.
3.Leon McMullen "Just A Few Words" (Main Street/Sound Mindz)
Leon has a vintage soul voice reminiscent of O.V. Wright. An impressive debut.
4.Floyd Taylor "No Doubt" (Malaco)
A great year for Floyd. Not only did "Baby I've Changed" remain on the charts for a whole year but he very nearly picked up FOUR Blues Critic Awards! He won "Best Male Vocal Performance" & "Best Southern Soul Song" and finished a very close second in "Album Of The Year" & 'Best Slow Jam" categories!
5.Jeff Floyd "The Power Is Still On" (Wilbe)
Floyd's second disc released on William Bell's Wilbe imprint is consistent through and through. Includes the smash duet with Bell, "Somebody's Gonna Lose A Good Woman", plus "You Had It All" & "I Got My Woman Upset"
6.Vick Allen "Simply Soul" (Waldoxy)
Ace songwriter steps to the fore on this terrific modern soul effort. The first hit may be a remake of Z.Z. Hill's "Who You Been Giving It To", but it's the Allen originals "Creepin' Ain't Easy" & "I'm Sorry", plus Rich Cason's "Giving It Up" that are the most noteworthy.
7.Chairmen Of The Board "All In The Family Southern Soul" (Xcel Music)
Fantastic collection. "The Blacker The Berry" is a brilliant song. Every track here is golden. The album would have a higher placing on this list but most of the cuts appeared on last years "All In The Family", which was in the Top 10 for 2004! Overall this is the better of the two.8. Bobby Warren "I Slipped Up" (Kon Kord)
An impressive set of Soul/Blues and Memphis-blessed soul.
9.Lorraine Turner "Shake It Down" (Ecko)
Very promising debut by this mezzo-sorprano voiced singer benefits from strong compositions like "You Lost A Fortune", "Good Love Is Hard To Find" and "Let Me Make Love To You". The latter contains a particularly sugary vocal from Turner.
10. Archie Love "Sincerely Yours" (JEA Music)
You can use the cliche' "big in Japan" for Archie Love but he also made his mark elsewhere with this disc. "Same Woman", a duet with mentor J. Blackfoot, and the gorgeous "Should've Been There For You" were two of the best cuts.
11. Lee "Shot" Williams "Nibble Man" (Ecko)
Yet another solid collection from "Shot" includes the funny "Ease On Down In The Bed" and "I'm A Nibble Man", both sizable hits. John Ward produced.
12. Chuck Roberson "Expressions Of Yesterday" (Cruise On)
Modern day Jackie Wilson on the vocals released a compilation of his late 80s/early 90s material. It contains the original "Lollypop Man", plus "Good Thing Man" which managed to hit the charts. Some of the production is certainly dated and sound quality could be better at times but "Expressions" is 13 strong Southern Soul/R & B songs by an underrated singer.
13. Willie Clayton "Full Circle" (Malaco/EndZone)
Interesting year for Clayton. "Full Circle" was first released on End Zone with a bonus DVD. After Clayton cut a deal with Malaco the CD was re-released with the extra cut "I'm Going Crazy", which was topping the chart by the end of the year.
14. Al Lindsey "Caught" (Pulsating Music)
Michigan's Al Lindsey arrived this past year with this impressive disc produced by Simuel Overall. The Marvin Gaye-inspired "Candlelight (A Salute To Marvin)" was a hit with "We're Gonna Party Tonite", "Caught (In The Wind)" strong contenders. "Hollow Point" was also added to several key playlists.
15. Rue Davis "For Real" (Studio Showtime)
The Marvin Gaye influence continues on this sultry collection. "Tell Me What U Want" & "Between The Sheets" were gems.
16.Nellie Tiger Travis "Wanna Be With You" (Da Man)
Floyd Hamberlin produced. Travis goes the Southern Soul route on this consistent set of bumps and ballads. "Baby Mama Drama" is the first hit but the song that has gone on to classic status is "If I Back It Up".
17. Ms. Monique "Soul Sessions Volume 1" (Soul Ent.)
Stunning debut from an instant diva packed with sexy slowies like "Love Therapy", "Slow & Easy" & "Lollipop" and invitations to the dancefloor ("Do You Wanna Step With Me?", "Get Up"). The first hit is "Mr. Do Right".
18.T.K. Soul "Love Games" (Soulful)
T.K. is an entertainer. His live shows knock 'em out and his records draw 'em in. "Cheating & Lying" was the lead cut. Word on the street is that T.K. is just getting warmed up.
19.Billy Ray Charles "Southern Soul...My Way" (Waldoxy)
First release from Charles since the death of Jimmy Lewis. One of his strongest overall records. Rich Cason helped out. Hot cuts are "Southern Girls Got The Booty", "There's A Rat Loose In My House" & "Too Pooped To Pop".
20.Jackie Neal "Down In Da Club" (Jazzy)
Tragically, Jackie Neal was murdered in 2005. This was her last record and features the touching ode to her family, "The Way We Roll". The set includes club beaters like the title cut. Neal has influenced nearly every Southern Soul lady working today.
Spare, dusky and traveling on a gravel road Henry's production is sympathetic and unobtrusive. LaVette's the centerpiece rather than studio wizardry...a potent stew of sandpaper R & B, folk, soul & gospelish blues. LaVette was voted by readers as "Best Female Blues Singer" of 2005.
2.Maurice Davis "The Right Way" (Sims)
While the first half consists of stately soul heaven (songs written by Tim Davis, Ricky Ryan, EW James & Billy Lawson), Maurice and band kick off their shoes for some sturdy blues shuffles (written mostly by Maurice) on the second half. "I've Been Had", "Trouble", I'm No Fool" all give Maurice a chance to do some cutting with his axe.
3.Robert Cray "Twenty" (Sanctuary)
More of Cray's amalgam of R & B, soul, folk, blues and even a touch of loungey jazz ("My Last Regret"). Although mostly a laid back, confident set there's also some upbeat numbers like the rocking "It Doesn't Really Matter" and guitar spanking soul blues of "That Ain't Love" & "I'm Walkin'". "Twenty" is one of the best songs of his career!
4.Little Milton "Think Of Me" (Telarc)
The great Little Milton Campbell died in '05 but this ranking is not sympathy. Although it may take a a few spins to warm up to this altered version of Milton's soul/blues, you'll find it is a fitting curtain call. The title is now ironic. Milton won two Blues Critic Awards this past year. "Best Soul/Blues Album" & "Best Male Blues Singer"
5.Earl Gaines "The Different Feelings Of Blues & Soul" (Blue Fye)
Since his mid-90s comeback Gaines has become a bit of a journeyman amongst Blues labels. Blue Fye suits him up with his usual horn-laded Blues. "I've Kissed My Last Ass" & "Let's Sit And Talk This Thing Over" are the standouts. To me Gaines is sounding increasingly like Albert King as a vocalist
6.Lou Pride "Keep On Believing" (Severn)
A 13-song collection of Memphis Soul and blues expertly produced by David Earl. Pride is a smooth singer, with a rich, expressive croon. So like the last album you got the right singer and producer plus all the ingredients for greatness...
7.Ellis Hooks "Godson Of Soul" (Evidence)
Great year for producer/songwriter/producer Jon Tiven, Not only was he the man behind Little Milton's "Think Of Me" but he also produced this smokin' disc by the underrated Hooks. Aggressive, raucous Rhythm & Blues. And that voice! Hooks deserves a higher profile.
8. Percy Sledge "Shining Through The Rain" (Varese)
Sledge's soaring tenor is the holy howl of Deep Soul. This is his first set since the mighty fine 1995 comeback "Blue Night". Keeps his tradition of Country Soul, Bluesy Soul and aching slowies. Sledge is simply a treasure for Soul fans.
9.Carl Weathersby "Hold On" (Woodcutter)
Last year he nearly stole the show from Charles Wilson with his guitar virtuosity on Wilson's Delmark release "If Heartaches Were Nickels". Well, now Carl says "I'm Back Again" on the opener for the TC Davis and Richard Waters-produced "Hold On".
10.Solomon Burke "Make Do With What You Got" (Shout! Factory)
The album is more lively than his last disc. The highlight is "Let Somebody Love Me" with a showstopping vocal by the man. But those who fell in love with his Fat Possom record will notice "After All These Years" & "At The Crossroads" sound like they could fit right in on "Don't Give Up On Me".