Arif Mardin's second solo effort assembles a veritable who's who of funk and jazz greats, but Journey is no ego-stroking vanity project. A richly cinematic fusion suite appointed with all the texture and detail one would expect from a producer of Mardin's stature, it effortlessly melds the street-smart groove of blaxploitation-era soul with the cerebral expansiveness of jazz. Despite a roster of heavy-hitters including vibist Gary Burton, saxophonists Joe Farrell and Seldon Powell, flutist Hubert Laws, pianist Richard Tee, and drummers Steve Gadd and Bernard Purdie, Journey never buckles under the collective weight of its talent – Mardin's production yields an end result greater than the sum of the music's individual parts, forging a tight, cohesive sound more suggestive of a veteran studio crew than a collection of all-star soloists.
After an uneven four-year/five-LP deal with Polydor, Roy Buchanan (guitar/vocals) linked up with Atlantic Records for his next trio of long-players, commencing with A Street Called Straight (1976). Under the direction of Arif Mardin, and sporting the same combo that he had been using during his practically incessant touring, this disc is infinitely stronger than his previous non-live effort, In the Beginning (1974)…
“…her intensity, along with her vocal hoarseness, evokes the personable style of Melissa Etheridge… Even at quiet volumes, Noble still sings from her gut…” ~Washington Post
Aretha is the debut album by Aretha Franklin released on Arista Records in 1980. Franklin's first Arista single release, "United Together", reached #3 on the Soul chart and crossed over to #56 on Billboard's Hot 100. The album itself peaked at #47 and spent 30 weeks on Billboard's main album chart, eventually selling close to 350,000 copies. It is currently out of print.
By the '90s, Roberta Flack had completely immersed herself in the adult contemporary portion of the radio world, and this 1991 album is concrete proof of that. Largely based on collaborations with fellow adult radio singer Maxi Priest, Set the Night to Music is an odd assortment of standards with a few new compositions thrown in here and there for good measure. No doubt, the album's title track is the standout hit, and one of the biggest commercial successes in Flack's esteemed career. But there are also small surprises here and there on the album, including a stirring rendition of Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable" and the Bell-Creed Philly soul classic "You Make Me Feel Brand New." The production values and choice of instrumentation give this album a slightly dated feel, with a greater emphasis placed on polished synthesizers over the warm tones of a Fender Rhodes or grand piano, but all in all it's a strong album that presents Flack's classy, distinct vocal styling in a palatable fashion.
In the wake of his ascension into the pop Top Ten with the ballad "If Ever You're in My Arms Again," Peabo Bryson might have been expected to try to consolidate that success with his follow-up record. And indeed, Take No Prisoners, produced by such crossover veterans as Arif Mardin and Tommy LiPuma and featuring such pop songwriters as Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, and Tom Snow, may have seemed like a try for that.