The Best Albums of 2010 - Our Critics Picks!

It is always fun at the end of each year to celebrate the best of that year.  And 2010 had a lot of great music. 

And so we've lassoed our music critics to each pick their favorites, which we've assembled below in alphabetical order (by artist name).  These are uniformly releases with which you can't go wrong -- or so our critics say. Looking for a Christmas gift for a music lover?  Then spend some time with these winners.

The toughest part of this is limiting the choices, but, imperfect as they are, here are the selections from Peggy Oliver (PO), Detrel Howell (DH), Reg Jones (RJ), Chris Rizik (CR), L. Michael Gipson (LMG), Melody Charles (MC), J Matthew Cobb (JMC)  and Howard Dukes (HD).  Also, each album cover is a link to either CD Baby or Amazon, where you can generally listen to clips from the disc or where you can purchase it.

It is always fun at the end of each year to celebrate the best of that year.  And 2010 had a lot of great music. 

And so we've lassoed our music critics to each pick their favorites, which we've assembled below in alphabetical order (by artist name).  These are uniformly releases with which you can't go wrong -- or so our critics say. Looking for a Christmas gift for a music lover?  Then spend some time with these winners.

The toughest part of this is limiting the choices, but, imperfect as they are, here are the selections from Peggy Oliver (PO), Detrel Howell (DH), Reg Jones (RJ), Chris Rizik (CR), L. Michael Gipson (LMG), Melody Charles (MC), J Matthew Cobb (JMC)  and Howard Dukes (HD).  Also, each album cover is a link to either CD Baby or Amazon, where you can generally listen to clips from the disc or where you can purchase it.

We know these picks will have SoulTrackers talking. So be sure to comment below to let us know what we did right and what we missed!

Bilal: Airtight's Revenge. A more subdued Bilal opts to go deep, mining melancholic and thought-provoking feelings about his son, politics, and the streets in a more funk and rock-oriented style, harkening back to an era where electric guitar and rock chords were considered soulful too. (LMG)

BSlade: Brilliant Catastrophe(alpha) and (beta).  Tonex's feeling "Mighty Real" on his "coming out" double-album alter ego debut where the dancefloor gets as much heat as the pulpit. Continuing to bridge the traditional and the avant garde, the streets and the steeple, and secular soul with spiritual gospel, this five-octave siren raises all kinds of roofs in blissful tune. (LMG)

Alain Clark - Colorblind Alain Clark - Colorblind. With this, his third pop/soul masterpiece, Dutch soul man Alain Clark continues to be the greatest singer American audiences have never heard of.  Don't sit this one out. (CR)
El Debarge: Second Chance. In the comeback of the year, Mr. DeBarge combined his traditional lyrical prowess and  sense of melody with modern touches that enhanced his style without overwhelming his uniqueness in the process. (MC)
Dwele: W.ants. W.orld W.omen. With thoughtful narratives about love and life coupled with clean production and confident vocals, Dwele bravely stretched his artistic boundaries and fans couldn't help but groove off the results. (MC)
Fantasia: Back To Me. Despite (or perhaps as a direct result of) the emotional tempest engulfing her life as of late, Ms. Barrino created a soulful and sassy blend of pop, funk and R&B that emphasized what truly matters---her intuitive gift of song. (MC)

Foreign Exchange: Authenticity  - Crisp, cool, and yet darkly emotional, this stellar electro-soul project explores the brisk winters of love, hope, and heartache. Lyrically wiser than its writer/producer duo's numerical years, this contemplative work inspires with bare-knuckled honesty (LMG).

Cee Lo Green: The Ladykiller. He gets our attention with 2010's hottest viral jam ("F** You") but seizes our interest using a delicious, throwback cuisine filled with smoky swagger, slamming songwriting and - the greatest element of all - his unique voice. (JMC)
Jaheim - Another Round Jaheim: Another Round. Hailed as the heir to Luther and Teddy, his music only occasionally realized his promise - until now.  The most complete Jaheim album ever, unlike Samson this romantic he-man grew stronger with the chop of his locks.  Keep cutting. (LMG)
Jose James: BlackMagic. Thankful he slummed with the commoners enough to get this mainstream one out there before "the establishment" usurped his very necessary energy. (RJ)
Angela Johnson - It's Personal (2010) Angela Johnson: It's Personal. SoulTrackers voted this as the album of the year for good reason. Angie is a triple threat: singer, songwriter and producer, and she continues to grow on this very personal album. (CR)
Sean C. Johnson - Simply A Vessel Vol. II: Faithful (2010) Sean C. Johnson: Simply A Vessel, Vol. II: Faithful -- Contemporary gospel never sounded so great as Sean's neo-soul, hip-hop flavored celebration of his undeniable love for Jesus. (PO)
Jackiem Joyner - Jackiem Joyner.  This album was an introduction of the musician to me, and held my ears in a wonderful vice grip! (DH)
Kem - Intimacy.  A fabulously solid album that transformed on stage in the same way as on disc; all hits, no misses. (DH)

Bettye LaVette: Interpretations  - Raw power, stripped to the gristle emotionalism and distinctive phrasing, LaVette comes fully, dynamically into her own-again-on this album of British rock covers. LaVette excavates the blues in songs written by rockers originally inspired by the blues, ensuring that these faves and obscure hits come full circle. (LMG)

John Legend & the Roots: Wake Up!  One of the year's most surprising collaborative efforts helps usher in the Second Coming of soulful R&B and funk using timely socio-political angst and obscure ‘70s gems; certainly strong enough to make what's old all new again. (JMC)
Mama's Gun - Routes to Riches Mama's Gun: Routes to Riches. Part Hall & Oates and part Steve Miller Band, Mama's Gun immersed its listeners into a 70s pop/soul groove and made Routes to Riches one of the year's freshest CDs. (CR)

Maroon 5: Hands All Over. Probably the closest to imagining a more R&B version of the Fab Four - Maroon 5 delivers an infectious, solid collection that summarizes the best of pop melodies without diminishing their solicitude for Michael Jackson-Stevie Wonder grooves.  (JMC)

Bruno Mars: Doo-Wops & Hooligans. Hands down the newest and freshest kid on the block, Bruno Mars delivers an interesting mix of pop ‘n soul that stands out as one of 2010's brightest efforts. (JMC)
Frank McComb - A New Beginning Frank McComb: A New Beginning. Frank McComb's recording past may have played like a soap opera, but he returns both rejuvenated and spiritually at peace on perhaps the greatest album of his enviable career. (CR)
Gabbie McGee - Mississippi's Daughter (2010) Gabbie McGee: Mississippi's Daughter -- In this superb musical scrapbook, Gabbie shares some memories of her southern upbringing alongside an eclectic collection of jazz, funk, rock, gospel and soul. (PO)
Janelle Monae: The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III). Ambitiously experimental using a clever design of provocative genrebending, Janelle Monae' proves with her first major project that she's not trying to be a part of R&B's rat race; she's inventing a whole new playground. (JMC)
P J Morton - Walk Alone P.J. Morton: Walk Alone.  Reminds all that simple soul pop still reigns supreme among fans. Easy melodies, straight-forward sentiment, and the birth of a new gospel classic in his "Let Go" duet with his famous Bishop father ensures that the junior Morton will never walk alone again. (LMG)
Mike Phillips - M.P.3.  The eagerly anticipated 'M.P.3' delivered all that was expected and more; a solid project that infuses elements like Stevie Wonder's harmonica solo, Natalie Stewart's spoken word piece & other features that enhance Phillips' sassy, yet sultry, sax blends. (DH) 
Gregory Porter: Water. Gregory Porter's influences, ranging from Nat "King" Cole to Kevin Mahogany and John Hendricks, can be heard on Water, and that's good company. Porter's songwriting and arrangements that fuse jazz with soul make Water a standout recording. (HD)
Rena Scott - Take Me Away Rena Scott: Take Me Away -- Rena pays homage to the heroes she worked with (including The Temptations) and to the pure passion of seventies and eighties R&B in this highly recommended Amor Records release. (PO) 
John Stoddart - Faith, Hope, Love John Stoddart: Faith, Hope, Love. Love inspired some of history's best works of art. And in this story of love and struggle, John Stoddart crafted one of the best CDs I've heard this year. Stoddart manages to avoid musical ruts on Faith, Hope, Love, an album that explores the marriage relationship in all of its complexity.
(HD)
Avery*Sunshine - Avery*Sunshine (2010) Avery*Sunshine: Avery Sunshine. Fans' immediate love for this promising debut harkens back to the introductions of Jill and Erykah. Fresh and full of finger-popping grooves and heartfelt ballads that aptly showcase this bottom heavy voice and adroit key and composition work, Avery brings the sunshine. (LMG)
Toussaint: Black Gold. On Black Gold, Toussaint combined the best of reggae music with genres such as funk, soul and hip-hop. Black Gold shows that reggae's forte of strong vocals and lyrics that speak truth to power and give encouragement and hope to the masses can still be relevant in 2010.

Lizz Wright: Fellowship.  Deliciously unexpected in its arrangements and old gospel/spirituals selections, it completely lives up to its mahogany vocalist's festival circuit hype. Rock and soul hits get the stripped-down, jubilee chorus treatment to dizzying effect - much like Wright's talents. (LMG)

Zo!: Sunstorm. Listening to this artist/producer evolve from minimalist 80s inspired hip hop productions to lush, spacey, panoramic soundscapes worthy of Norman Connors, Pharaoh Sanders, or at least Rod Temperton is a joy. Joined by A-list underground vocalists like Phonte, Monica Blaire, and Sy Smith, Zo's Sunstorm shines. (LMG)

  HONORABLE MENTION: 

Adriana Evans - Walk With The Night

Aloe Blacc - Good Things

Blue Sixx - Noesis

Calvin Richardson: America's Most Wanted

Cee Lo - Stray Bullets

Chris Rob - Mental Notes

Cody ChestnuTT-Black Skin No Value

Conya Doss: Blu Transition

Dira: Something About the Girl

Eric Benet: Lost In Time

Incognito: Transatlantic RPM

KeKe Wyatt-Who Knew?

Kem: Intimacy

Maysa: A Woman In Love

Monica: Still Standing

NeYo - Libra Scales

R. Kelly -Love Letter

Rhonda Thomas - Listen

Sonnyboy - The Barfly Theory

Trombone Shorty: Backatown

Will Downing: Lust, Love & Lies

Vic Frierson: Th'owback

Yahzarah: The Ballad of Purple St. James

 
SoulTracks Choice Cut - Toni Redd - "Underneath My Skin"
Song of the Month - Stokley - "Level"
CD of the Month - Phil Perry - Breathless
Sneak Peek - Raul Midon - Bad Ass and Blind

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