The Best CDs of 2009! Our Critics' choices!

It is always fun at the end of each year to celebrate the best of that year.  And 2009 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), Christian John Wikane (CJW), 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 2009 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), Christian John Wikane (CJW), 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!

   
All-4-One - No Regrets  All-4-One: No Regrets -- Arising out of musical limbo, the talented Cali-based quartet shed years of sappy pop frustration to issue an absolute gem, filled with memorable hooks and even better harmonies. (CR)
Marc Broussard: Keep Coming Back -- With jams like "Another Night Alone" and "Saying I Love You," I kept coming back again and again all year long to cry, celebrate, feel good, and hear some of the best soul songwriting around; you will too. (LMG)
Alain_Clark_Live_It_Out_Album.jpg  Alain Clark: Live It Out -- Amsterdam soul? Well this Dutch singer's infectious blend of pop and soul will have fans of acts from Hall and Oates to John Legend howling for more. (CR)
Corneille: The Birth of Corneillius -- A child of Germany and Rwanda, singer/songwriter Corneille supplied a touching autobiographical story and great tunes on this gentle, moving album. (CR)
Karl Denson's Tiny Universe: Brother's Keeper -- Retro soul had a big year as artists looked to create rather than cover, and this soulful, funky, bluesy rollicking album absolutely nailed the retro formula. (HD)
Shae Fiol - Catch A Ride Shae Fiol: Catch a Ride -- The current generation of divas can learn a thing or two from classy chanteuses like Shae and Alisa Ohri, who combine high quality grooves with mature vocals. (HD)
Melanie Fiona - The Bridge  Melanie Fiona: The Bridge -- Sure, this Canadian songstress looks good, but the real joy is in hearing her irresistible melodies that bridge pop, soul and rock seamlessly. An artist to watch. (CR)
Foreign Exchange: Leave It All Behind -- Arguably one of the best albums of the decade; not since Sweetback's debut has electronic music sounded this soulful and seductive (LMG)
Israel Houghton: The Power of One -- I got this CD in late January, and I'm still thinking about it and playing songs from it 12 months later. In a year full of solid releases, that's high praise. (HD)
Joy Jones - Godchild:  Joy Jones establishes her unique soul music platform on Godchild, her first full-length debut, set to a colorful palette of electronic rhythms. (PO)
Adam Lambert For Your Entertainment -- Though the effort feels like a tamed and restricted version of Lambert's familiar rock glam, tracks like "Music Again," and the Pink collaboration "Whataya Want From Me" equal up to some of this year's most memorable performances. (JMC)
Lemar_The_Reason_Album.jpg  Lemar: The Reason -- This popular UK singer is virtually unknown Stateside, but with The Reason he delivers the kind of album that we dreamed Seal would release for the past 20 years. Simply unforgettable. (CR)
Marcell & The Truth: Symbols -- Lyrically the heir to Bill Withers; vocally a kin to Freddie Jackson and Luther Vandross; and, musically second to none; this sophomore soul project inspires, sings, swoons and swings--sometimes simultaneously. (LMG)
Maxwell: BLACKsummers'night -- If this is an indication of parts two and three in Maxwell's proposed trilogy, then listeners needn't look too far in the coming years for superior examples of modern-day soul. "Cold," "Love You," "Help Somebody" -- distinct and vital to your musical health. (CJW)
Lisa McClendon: Reality --  McClendon returns after a four-year hiatus with Reality, a powerful disc about the struggles between one's faith and the frailties of human nature. (PO)
Chrisette Michelle: Epiphany -- Smart, sexy R&B and a slick, successful step towards securing her place amongst pop's elite. (JMC)
Ledisi: Turn Me Loose -- Ledisi has always has the goods - that's without question - but Turn Me Loose is the first album that truly fuses the very best of her singing, songwriting, and producing gifts in one irresistible package.  (CJW)
Alisa Ohri - Cuz I Feel Alisa Ohri: Cuz I Feel  -- The current generation of divas can learn a thing or two from class chanteuses like Alisha and Shae Fiol, who combine high quality grooves with mature vocals. (HD)
Mica Paris: Born Again -- Pregnant with subtle soul and oceans of emotional depth, listening to Paris steal Keisha Cole's "I Remember" and deliver an elegant performance of Gershwin's "Summertime" made this unconverted critic a fan for life.  (LMG)
PPP: Abundance -- Giving dynamic a whole new definition, the intricate collision of sounds, genres and eras earned Waajeed and Saddiq (aka Platinum Pied Pipers) cred as titans among the greatest producers of indie soul; sublime vocalists like Coultrain and Karma are nothing to shake a stick at either. (LMG)
Rizen: Free -- Originally an eight-member vocal band, Rizen is now paired down to sisters Adriann & Aundrea Lewis, but their third disc - Free - proves quality does not require quantity. (PO)
Eric Roberson - Music Fan First Eric Roberson: Music Fan First -- The King of indie soul took an eclectic turn on his newest album, giving a nod to hip-hop, jazz and ultra-modern R&B, but still delivered the goods in a way that few contemporary artists can. (CR)
Russell Taylor - Confessional Russell Taylor: Confessional -- Russell Taylor is among the best kept secrets in contemporary music and Confessional finds more than soul running through the bloodstream of this exceptionally talented artist. (CJW)
Tuomo: Reaches Out For You -- Tonally similar to equally diverse projects from moving blue-eyed soul artists Dan Dyer, Daniel Merriweather, James Morrison and Diane Birch, the gifted singer/songwriter from Finland sonically mines the best of the Blaxploitation soundtracks with a heart bigger than Shaft's big black gun. (LMG)
Various Artists Oh Happy Day: All-Star Celebration -- With the help of big names like Queen Latifah, Al Green and Jon Bon Jovi, this super all-star homecoming pays tribute to gospel roots and some of its revered cousins like Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come." (JMC)
   
 
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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