Four 'neo-soul' albums on CD, by Jill Scott, D'Angelo and the Vanguard, Res, and Raphael Saadiq.

In recent years I’ve been beginning to catch up with some of the ‘neo-soul’ music whose popularity crested in the years either side of the millennium, but which I failed to appreciate at the time. As times have changed, my tastes have too: nowadays I find plenty of it is very much to my liking. Above are a few of the albums I’ve acquired lately on inexpensive second-hand CDs.

Top left: Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1 the titular singer-songwriter’s debut record. It’s a plush confection of smooth textures underpinned by strong melodies and topped with Scott’s warm & elegant vocals, and is a rare album that doesn’t outstay it’s welcome over a 70+ minute running time. Example track: Gettin' In The Way. Top right: a relatively late entry in the annals of the genre (from 2014), namely Black Messiah by D’Angelo and the Vanguard. I hesitated to buy this one as I’d not readily warmed to the same artist’s previous (and much acclaimed) Voodoo album. The newer one, however, directly hit the spot at first hearing: I love it (e.g. Sugah Daddy).

Bottom right: looking for other titles to explore I found a list of 10 Essential Neo-Soul Albums that included a record I’d never even heard of: How I Do by Res (2001). Having now listened to it a few times, I’d say that if it is neo-soul, it’s not only neo-soul, with rock & pop influences very much to the fore alongside the soul ones (not to mention other ingredients). Fortunately, it’s as easy to enjoy as it is difficult to classify – see They-Say Vision, for instance. Lastly, bottom left: Stone Rollin' by Raphael Saadiq (2011). This one is undeniably soul, if perhaps more obviously retro than neo. Although redolent of the ’60s and ’70s, there’s more to it than its vintage sonic garb. If inclined, try the title track for size.