The top ten best R&B albums of all time span decades and styles of rhythm and blues ranging from the dance music of the '50s and '60s, to the socially conscious soul of the '70s heyday of Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. The best R&B albums are both timeless and of a time, evoking the black experience in America and beyond, while retaining universal appeal for all listeners. So here it is, the list of the top ten best R&B albums of all time.
- "Innervisions" by Stevie Wonder. The masterpiece of Stevie Wonder's creative peak in the '70s embodies all of the potential inherent in the best R&B albums, embedding trenchant social commentary in some of the funkiest music ever created. Undying classics like "Too High" and "Higher Ground" surround the epic "Living for the City," the story of a black man's struggle against the world conveyed through some of Wonder's most emotional singing. No album in his, or any other's catalog, matches this.
- "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye. A product of the same embrace of social commentary present in Stevie Wonder's work of the time, Marvin Gaye's masterpiece illustrates the pain of modern life over a number of beautiful anthems including "Mercy Mercy Me" and the classic title track, bringing it near the top of the list of the top ten best R&B albums of all time.
- "Live at the Apollo" by James Brown. Since much of R&B's energy is best experienced live, it fits to have a live album near the top of the list of top ten best R&B albums of all time. "Live at the Apollo" captures the chaos and precision of one of the greatest showmen in history at his youthful best.
- "Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul" by Otis Redding. The "King of Soul's" most fully realized album is a varied collection of up-tempo workouts and classic ballads.
- "Lady Soul" by Aretha Franklin. Included some of the "Queen of Soul's" biggest hits.
- "Sign O' The Times" by Prince. The '80s may not have been the best time for R&B albums, but Prince's unique blend of rock, funk, new wave and soul kept the flame alive. This double album is sprawling, and at times experimental, but contains many of his most memorable tracks, including the undeniable "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man."
- "Reach Out" by the Four Tops. Perhaps the greatest vocal group album benefited from the immortal voice of front man Levi Stubbs.
- "Stand" by Sly & The Family Stone. This multiracial group of men and women broke new ground in blending funk, rock and soul, with social commentary, paving the way for Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder to do the same. This landmark album is one of the best R&B albums of all time.
- "Going to a Go-Go" by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. Opening up with the immortal "Tracks of My Tears," this album by the group formerly billed as "The Miracles" was one of Motown's greatest efforts of the '60s.
- "Little Richard" by Little Richard. This 1958 platter introduced the wild man of R&B to many, paving the way for everything else to come.
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