DAR Retro: The Greatest Album From 5 Legendary Soul Groups

By @TrueGodImmortal

Soul music is the foundation of so much in the music world. Over the years, there have been numerous soul groups that made their mark through classic singles and classic albums. When we look back on the groups of the 70's and early 80's, a lot of them reached heights that the artists of today could only dream of. With mostly live instrumentation being the fuel for these groups, their production was always crisp and the sound was almost flawless, resulting in a large number of classic albums through their era. For every soul group, one could reference two to three classic albums a piece. With that being said, I wanted to look at 5 legendary soul groups and choose their best album. The groups I selected today are personal favorites, starting with Earth, Wind, and Fire. The Stylistics are featured, The O'Jays, The Isley Brothers, and The Whispers as well. What is the greatest album from each of these legends. Let's take a look.

*Earth, Wind, and Fire- That's The Way Of The World (1975)

-While this is technically a soundtrack for a film that shares the same name as the album, I always just considered it a regular album by one of the greatest groups in soul history. While EWF have a lot of solid albums in their extensive catalog, this album just feels different. It blends the perfect amount of soul and funk together, providing the best overall cohesive sound of any album that they released. With mega hits like "Shining Star" and the title track, along with classics like "All About Love" and "Reasons", this album has no skips. The album would be very successful for the time, reaching triple platinum status, and being listed on the 500 Greatest Albums list by Rolling Stone. Simply put, this EWF album is in a class of its own.

The Stylistics- The Stylistics (1971)

-I almost selected Round 2, because it really is a powerful album and a classic, but the debut from this group is impossible to top. This is a soul music landmark album, with so many hits coming from the tracklist. With Thom Bell behind the sound and most of the writing on the album, there was a top tier Philadelphia Soul vibe to this album that I don't think is matched on their later albums. This album would spawn five straight top 10 hits with classics like "You Are Everything", "Betcha By Golly, Wow", "People Make The World Go Round", and "Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)" helping to round out a magnificent album.

*The O'Jays- Back Stabbers (1972)

-There are other albums that are perhaps slightly better in terms of cohesion, but this is their greatest work to me. Philadelphia Soul was at an all time high, and one of the premier groups of that time was of course the legendary O'Jays. This was their breakthrough album, gaining them notoriety and fame beyond what they had achieved prior, and with Gamble and Huff behind the production and songwriting, there was no way they could lose. The title track remains one of their most popular singles, while "Love Train" is another popular song in the group's legacy. Other highlights include "When The World's At Peace", "Who Am I", and "Sunshine". All in all, the O'Jays have a strong catalog, and this album takes the cake as their best.

*The Isley Brothers- Between The Sheets (1983)

-Of all the glorious albums and projects that the Isleys have created, this is definitely their greatest work. Now, yes, it is also one of their more popular works, but what makes this album standout so much is the fact that it really shaped the way the Isleys were seen as a group. This is an album full one side of bedroom ballads, and the other side featuring more broader anthems
and it showcased how well balanced the group can be. From the title track to "Choosey Lover" to "I Need Your Body" to "Let's Make Love Tonight", side one of the album is full of classic 100% bedroom anthems, while side two has a different approach that works just as well, bringing us highlights such as "Slow Fown Children", "Ballad For The Fallen Soldier", and more. All in all, this is the most well rounded Isley album, which to me makes it the greatest.

*The Whispers- Headlights (1978)

-I've always thought The Whispers were legends, and that holds true to this day. Their albums are mostly all classics, at least during the late 70s and 80s era, but it came down to choosing between Headlights, their self titled project, and Just Gets Better With Time. It was a tough choice, as all three are at the top of my list for soul albums, but I edged it to Headlights, because it has the overall best music and cohesion IMO. Like most albums back then, it was short but sweet, boasting 8 tracks of pure musical perfection, with the highlights being the title track, "(Olivia) Lost And Turned Out", "(You're A) Special Part Of My Life", and of course, my favorite "(Let's Go) All The Way". From start to finish, I fully believe this is the greatest Whispers album.



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