From: T*****:

    Long time fan of soul-sides … In your latest post involving the Sylvers, you mention that Sylvers II is one of your ‘top 5 soul albums of all time’. It really got me thinking…I know you’re probably always overwhelmed with email, but if you get the time, of just off-the-cuff….what would be your top 5 (10 if you’re feeling especially productive) soul albums of all time. No special criteria. Doesn’t have to be ‘underrated’ or unknown. Just the top ones you wouldn’t want to ever be without.

Dear T*****,

Thanks for writing and asking. I somehow knew this question would pop up when I wrote that thing about the Sylvers. The thing is: my Top 5 is constantly shifting and albums that I would SWEAR would make that list today, may not necessarily be on there next month depending on how my tastes change. This said, here’s what comes to mind right now.

Al Green: I’m Still In Love With You (Hi, 1972)
I’m not going to claim this is the best soul album ever recorded but it’s long been a personal favorite. Not only does it sport amazing production and arrangement as well as one of the best voices ever, but there are so many songs one here I never tire of: “Love and Happiness,” What a Wonderful Thing Love Is,” “Simply Beautiful,” “I’m So Glad You’re Mine.”

Aretha Franklin: I Never Loved a Man… (Atlantic, 1967)
This is a tougher call since I absolutely adore Aretha and her songs but not necessarily all on one single album. That said, this one, her first on Atlantic after coming over from Columbia, probably comes closest to having the most songs I do like.

Sylvers: Sylvers II (Pride/MGM, 1973)
I wouldn’t expect to find this on most people’s Top 5…the Sylvers were, after all, derivative of the Jackson 5 who arguably made better songs and albums but personally, I love this album. The production is mind-blowing: it’s rich, soulful, funky and engineered to a polished shine. You can find a single song like that on many albums, but this LP has about six or seven tracks like that.

Eddie Kendricks: People…Hold On (Tamla/Motown, 1972)
This album might dip off my Top 5 at times, depending on mood, but all things considered, it’s one of the most complete soul LPs I can think of, just an incredible blend of great songwriting, production and variety. Everyone needs this LP in their life at some point.

James Brown: Gettin’ Down To It (King, 1969)
The Godfather of Heavy Funk meets the Dee Felice Trio for a series of stripped down ballads. The pairing doesn’t necessarily make sense on paper but it sounds amazing. This is, without a doubt, my favorite James Brown album.