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Over the past few months, I have been highly anticipating composing this ‘best of’ list of my genuine choices for the 10 top Soul and R&B albums for the 2022 year. These choices are compiled of "new (modern) releases," and not reissues of previously released albums. There have been so many good album releases this year, and it made compiling this list rather difficult. Now, I will not review or include any music (no matter what it is or who it’s from) in any journalism or creative writing compositions of mine, unless I actually own the music and have spent time assessing it from the comfort of my own music room, and living with it for what I consider a proper amount of time. So, if there is something that I’ve heard (single songs on streaming platforms, or on YouTube, or recommended to me by other music aficionados and collectors) that intrigued me enough to want to know more, I may seek out a couple more examples from any particular album, and if it intrigues me further, more times than not, will purchase the album (physical formats only) and add it to my extensive music library.

In my own personal exploring and delving into the music that I am about to highlight in this article, I have been able to give pretty solid assessments on every album project that I have even considered making this Top 10 list (and there were almost three- dozen albums that were in the running). My choices are compiled of major label releases, to strong independent record label releases and even smaller independent record label releases, nevertheless, each album included greatly deserves to be on this list. I have spent my entire professional-life compiling music for album projects [A&R], managing the artists who perform them, developing recording artists, composing music, writing songs, producing records, and professionally writing about music, and so, I can be overtly scrutinizing when it comes to “music,” to say the least.

Again, please keep in mind that all of these albums are “not reissues” of older albums re-released this year (we’ll be doing a 2022 highlight of Soul and R&B Reissues in a later article). All of the recording projects chosen within, are new albums retailed and marketed as 2022 releases. Also, this list will read in succession from “Great” to “Greater” to “Greatest,” so as you read along, they just keep getting better.  Let’s get into it.

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10). Moonchild – Starfruit (Tru Thoughts Records)

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The musical “essence” of Moonchild seems to never change, and some people may look at that in the negative, but I think the fans that truly understand them, appreciate that about them the most. There is a sonic fingerprint with this band that is just so recognizable and welcoming that you want them to always sound like Moonchild – three multi-instrumentalists who have created a niche for themselves and earned their respected reputation within the realm of Modern Soul music. From the beginning, Amber Navran’s lead vocals have been the catalyst of the bands sound that just sucks you in like a tractor beam. So lush, so dreamy, yet so poignant and precise. Mix that with the Divine-ordained musical partnership of Andris Mattson and Max Bryk, and you have the perfect formula for quintessential Neo-Classic Soul in its purest form. I have been dedicated to this band ever since their 2012 debut CD album Be Free, and this is the first time I have seen them incorporate bigger-named-artist-collaborations that include the likes of Lalah Hathaway, Alex Isley and Tank and the Bangas. This album seemed like a major step up in production style as well, and it was a very welcome sense of musical-growth without straying away from what makes Moonchild, Moonchild. Available on both vinyl and compact disc albums.

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9.) Kirby – Sis. (Diggers Factory)

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This debut EP by the recording artist simply known as Kirby, is probably the most elusive record on our list. Sis. was limited to only 500 original pressings by the France-based independent record label – Diggers Factory – but pressed and marketed as a U.S. release. It is packed with seven phenomenal songs that are imprinted with Classic Neo-Soul and Contemporary R&B, chalked full of Psychedelia-tinged and Folk-infused instrumentation and ethereal, slightly raw (yet polished at the same time) "signature" vocals. The songwriting is extremely impressive with deep personal subject matter and floaty melodic note structure. Because of the limited release, if you are looking for a copy, you are going to pay a premium. Unfortunately ‘resellers’ tend to exploit and take advantage of the 'low pressing-count' and charge an “arm and a leg” when record label copies sell out… it’s a huge shame. But, I will say, if you have the money to make an aftermarket purchase, it will be money well spent, believe me.  Hopefully we’ll get a reissue from Diggers Factory sooner than later. Available on vinyl record 'only' for now. Hey Diggers Factory, we need a vinyl record reissue and a CD album version, ASAP... this album is too good not to.

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8.) Khruangbin & Leon Bridges – Texas Moon (Dead Oceans/ Columbia/ Night Time Stories)

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Two of my favorite modern recording artists, back in 2022, to collaborate on yet another studio album. Their first joint venture was in 2020 with the EP album – Texas Sun – which featured four original songs, and was backed up by an international tour with Khruangbin supporting Leon Bridges. They came back in 2022 with their five-song EP follow-up – Texas Moon – which even trumped the brilliance of the first studio collaboration. This is a short but powerful album. This album made my top picks for Goldmine Magazine’s contributing editor picks for 2022. At only five songs, one might say, “what’s the point?” I would say, “take a listen,” and you will retract your question, and very quickly. At first I thought the two acts collaborated because both artists come from the exact same suburb of Houston, Texas, and Leon was trying to support his home-town kin... but no, that wasn’t the entire reason why. When you hear the New Northern Soul vocals of Leon Bridges, up against the Psychedelic Soul genius of Khruangbin, you will know exactly why these two musical entities collaborate – because they are just brilliant together. Available on vinyl EP, compact disc and cassette tape albums.

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7.) Kendra Morris – Nine Lives (Karma Chief Records / Colemine Records)

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Ever since 2012’s LP Banshee (Wax Poetics Records), I have been in this artist’s front pocket, and she didn’t even know it. Kendra Morrisalthough she has an impressive international following, is probably this list’s most underrated female recording artist. She is absolutely, and ridiculously PHENOMENAL.  After riding the wave with Wax Poetics Records for two full-length LPs (two fantastic one’s I might add), and after an almost decade long hiatus from releasing another full-length record, Karma Chief Records, joint venturing with Colemine Records, stepped up to give us 2022’s Nine Lives. Not that the previous albums were any less impressive, but boy does this new album show massive growth, in every way. Her vocals have always been absolutely golden, but she is vocally in rare form on this new album, and it shows vividly within the world-class songwriting all throughout.  Taking her signature style, and incorporating a bit of New Northern Soul into her forte, Nine Lives is a must-listen, and a highly recommended purchase — what an extremely dynamic record! Do not let this one stay out of your music collection. Available on vinyl record and compact disc.

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6.) Emeli Sandé – Let’s Say For Instance (Chrysalis)

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Though this brilliant and successful recording artist from the U.K. has seen great success; Emeli Sandé's music and notoriety has been slightly quieter on 'this side of The Pond.’ She has been a British major label force for a decade now, but I was only aware of her from her 2019 Virgin EMI release – Real Life. So when I became privy of 2022’s Let’s Say For Instance, I was excited to explore it to the core (to say the least).  A beyond solid Soul record with brilliant tinges of modern R&B, slight hints of Dub, all wrapped up in great Pop appeal without “bowing down” to ‘Pop.’ The production, musicianship and her beautifully distinct vocals, are as notable as other artists such as Adele, Alicia Keys and Andra Day. This album has definite ‘mass appeal.’ If you make a purchase based off of my recommendation, you will not be sorry you did. And, after you acquire this record, her entire past catalog awaits you. Available on compact disc and vinyl record album. 

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5.) Monophonics – Sage Motel (Colemine Records)

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I think when it comes to Psychedelic-tinged Modern Soul, Monophonics are the standard and the marker to be reckoned with. I mean, the entire band is so cohesive and glued-together, it’s ridiculous. And, the production leadership of Kelly Finnigan, is without a doubt, the glue that holds them together. Every single one of their releases since their 2007 self-released Playin & Simple, has been something to pay very close attention to. However, when their Sound of Sinning album hit in 2015, I was hooked for good. Now, two studio albums later, this is one of the most well produced, well recorded, well written albums that is available on the Colemine Records label right now, and that is major kudos for the band, because basically everything that comes off of the Colemine roster is above ‘top-notch’.  On this current release — Sage Motel — you will experience extreme real-life song topics, very innovative songwriting and the band's quintessential recognizable production.  Sonically, at its core, it feels like a 'modern throw-back' (oxymoron intended) to 1970 intermittently throughout the entire record.  Imagine Stevie Wonder, The Isley Brothers, Pink Floyd, and Lee Hazelwood — that is Monophonics' Sage Motel. Available on vinyl and compact disc album.

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4.) Eric Roberson – Lessons (Blue Erro Soul)

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If Kendra Morris is the most underrated female recording artist on our list, then Eric Roberson is the male equivalent, as the most underrated, under-acknowledged male recording artist on our 'best of' list for this year. That is not to say that he is the most un-established artist on the list, because that would be furthest from the truth.  Eric is over 20 years from his first bona fide studio album, and through the succession of each album, they continue to increase in appeal and talent. This album has won me over, being my favorite of all of Roberson’s releases (and I own them all). Lessons has a number of feature appearances by some of Modern Soul’s heavy hitters, from the likes Anthony Hamilton, Raheem Devaughn and Cory Henry [Snarky Puppy]. There is also one other feature appearance that was a very emotional one for me. In early 2001, I was one of the last songwriters to collaborate in writing with the illustrious and fantastic; [my friend] Kenny Greene — the former iconic lead singer of the R&B vocal group Intro (who passed away in late 2001) — and when I saw that Eric collaborated with the remaining members of ‘Intro’ on the song “All I Want”, it was a very emotional breath-of-fresh-air for me… it’s just so well done.  This 9th studio album from Roberson is one that is beautifully organic, full of authenticity and life. It is recorded in a way that I can imagine it sounding exactly the same when it’s performed live. It comes extremely and highly recommended.  Available on compact disc album 'only', but maybe Blue Erro Soul Records might give us a reissue in a vinyl version, this coming year.

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~~~~ Top Three ~~~~

3.) Anthony Hamilton – Love is the New Black (My Music Box / BMG)

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Technically, this album (his first full-length in five years) was released to retail at the very end of September, 2021, but only as a digital file, and as well, on compact disc album. The vinyl record version was then later released a half a year or so later, in May of 2022. The album project has essentially been regarded and marketed as a 2022 album, and so, I am fortifying that by including it as the No. 3 position for this Goldmine Magazine/ TONE Scott Top 10 Soul and R&B albums of 2022 list. This is absolute, undeniable, unadulterated, unwavering, unbelievable Soul music… period!   This is arguably his best studio album EVER. Making that kind of claim can be “ear raising,” because if you are a fan of Mr. Hamilton from the beginning, you know that all of his album projects ‘hit’ very heavy, and all of them to the tune of being very well respected and revered Modern Soul music.  Included on the album are some very well ‘fitted-in’ features from artists such as Jennifer Hudson, Lil’ Jon, Rick Ross and a miraculous posthumous feature by Rick JamesLove is the New Black is Curtis Mayfield, it is Isaac Hayes, it is Marvin Gaye, it is Bill Withers, it is Al Greene, it is Billy Paul, it is Teddy Pendergrass, it is The O’Jays, it is Bobby Womack, etc… but, most of all, it is pure Anthony Hamilton, and it is quintessential and pure Neo-Classic Soul in its proper form.  Available on vinyl LP and compact disc albums. Enjoy! 

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2.) Amber Mark – Three Dimensions Deep (PMR Records/ Interscope/ EMI)

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The next (and last) two recording artists, inducted into the Goldmine Magazine/ TONE Scott Top 10 Soul and R&B albums of 2022 list, must have not gotten the message that it is not protocol anymore to include twice as many songs as normal on a full length studio album (that trend went out in the early 2000's).  Both entries include well-beyond the standard number of songs usually offered – and man, am I glad they ignored the memo.  We will start with the artist who captured the #2 position for this years “best of” list – Amber Mark. Why is Amber Mark being awarded such a high position on this list?  Because she damn-well deserves it, point blank.  This artist has been through the wringer – through the death of her mother [Mia Mark], through her earlier Virgin Records EP releases that dazzled her fans, yet seemed to be ignored by her major record label affiliates, and through what has seemed like a struggle to get the mainstream to see the brilliance of this absolute true-musician of a recording artist – but now, Amber Mark has truly arrived.  I have been dedicated to this artist from day one (from her 2016 and 2018 EP albums – 3:33 AM and Conexão), and I was so overjoyed this year when the 17 track, 2xLP Three Dimensions Deep was released.  The moment I was able to partake in this phenomenal album from start to finish, I knew it had instantly become not only one of my favorite albums of the year, but also, what I believe will go down as one of the best Contemporary R&B albums of the 2020 decade.  Equal kudos goes out to her host record label – PMR Records – who have stuck with her from day one and have put every effort into exposing the brilliant talent of Ms. Amber Mark up to now, because this album is on fire. Distributed by Interscope Records in the U.S. and EMI outside of the U.S.  Conveniently available on vinyl record, compact disc, and cassette tape albums.  Get it!

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~~~~ 2022 Soul / R&B Album of the Year ~~~~

1.) Nikkole – Vulnerable (LA International Records)

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The album opens up with the very powerful R&B Pop oriented title track “Vulnerable,” which immediately sets the stage for the overall feel of this Goldmine Magazine / TONE Scott choice for 2022’s Soul/R&B album of the year.  The album’s core themes revolve around the artist and her experiences in finding strength in self-independence and awareness, to dealing with broken-heartedness, to celebrating successes in love relationships, to expressing hope in healing, to embracing professional success, all while learning to allow herself to be approachable, and open to life and new experiences, as well as new ventures, hence the title of the album – Vulnerable

The veteran recording artist, Nikkole (a.k.a. Nikkole Hall), and LA International Records present to us her 5th studio album; a 22 track, 2xLP collection of some of the best Soul/ R&B/ Pop songs (infused with sporadic Spoken Word interludes) that I have experienced in the past decade, at the very least.  That is a lot of songs, and (as you may have read above, regarding Amber Mark) no one really does that anymore.  It’s risky, it’s challenging and it takes a lot of “guts” to put out that much material on one project, and hope it doesn’t get regarded as just worthless ‘filler’ material.  Well, I’m glad that the artist and the production, and executive-production staff decided it was worth taking that chance, because every song on this record has great value, and great worth and they are all impressive to the very definition of perfection.  While every other album of hers before this has shown bona fide and constant growth as a songwriter, as a singer and her ability to make records (and believe me, I've heard them all); Vulnerable is her unadulterated magnum opus, hands down.  Similar to the No. 3 spot on our list [Anthony Hamilton], Vulnerable was actually released to retail at literally the very end of 2021, but has been marketed and recognized as a 2022 project by the record label, radio, the fans, the RIAA, and NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences); as Vulnerable is under Grammy consideration for Soul/ R&B album of the year.

The album has reached many accomplishments over the 2022 year.  Its two single releases – “All Mine and “We Can Make It If We Try” – have attained impressive chart position on the U.S. as well as UK charts.  While “All Mine” has broken the top 10 on U.S. and European charts, the illustrious and ‘throw-back-style’ ballad, “We Can Make It If We Try,” featuring the amazing Leon Sylvers IV, has attained No. 3 on the U.S. R&B charts.  The album as a whole, has done very well all over the globe, but it really acheived its greatest success in the UK, attaining the No. 2 position on the UK Soul Charts.  If you understand how discerning the British are about Soul and R&B music, you would understand that this is a majorly big deal.   One of the most impressive and monumental things about Vulnerable, is its production.  Before making the record, the artist and Co-Executive Producer – Wallace Hall – in contemplating the direction in which to take the next record, came to the conclusion that they needed to make career-enhancing moves.  The historic and iconic Soul/ R&B music producer Leon Sylvers III was chosen to “join the team”, and the rest is history.  Leon Sylvers III, along with the artist Nikkole, and the rest of the LA International Records team, has created something so very special, that it has manifested itself into something extraordinary, not only for the recording artist and for all who have partaken in the project, but even more so, the fans.  This may come off as cliché, or maybe a bit controversial, but when I think about the dynamic Pop-appeal of this bona fide Soul/ R&B album, it reminds me of albums such as Off The Wall, or Thriller, or Purple Rain, or Control, etc., in a sense that these historic recording projects that were rooted in a specific genre of music [Soul/ R&B], harnessed massive Pop-appeal, and became transcendent, widely received and iconic.  In my 25 years of professional music experience, I think I am qualified to say – “This is magnificent; it is brilliant, and it is the best of the best for 2022.”  Available on compact disc album, 2xLP 180 gram vinyl record, and a signed 2xLP+CD box set – you've got to own this! 

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2022 was a great year for new Soul and R&B releases; there is no doubt about that. Even beyond this top ten list, there were many fantastic albums by amazing new and veteran recording artists. Artists such as Mary J. Blige, John Legend and many more, with album releases this year, which come highly recommended, though there were things about those projects that just couldn’t keep them in the Top 10. The list that I’ve presented you with, is without question, the best Soul and R&B albums for this calendar year. I would highly recommend that you pick up a copy of every single one of them, on whatever format you choose.

Congratulations to all of the artists, writers, producers and record labels whose amazing projects were chosen for Goldmine Magazine/ TONE Scott Top 10 Soul and R&B album's for 2022, and congratulations to Nikkole, the entire LA International Records staff and Vulnerable for Soul/ R&B album of the year! 

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Contact TONE Scott at GoldmineMagazine@GoldmineMag.com. Please put The TONE of Soul in the subject line.