For our final Time-Life collection here on Summer Slow Jams, we're featuring Classic Soul Ballads from 2005, covering music from the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties. If some of the disc titles and especially playlists look familiar, its because this set is a ringer for the Body + Soul set we listened to back in June on Summer Slow Jams V. As best as I can piece together, Body + Soul was released first and after the initial licensing agreement was up, it was renegotiated and issued as Classic Soul Ballads before once again being reissued as Body + Soul, the collection we covered on Summer Slow Jams V. Time-Life's Quiet Storm collection (covered on Summer Slow Jams IX) also contains many of the same songs as both the Classic Soul Ballads and Body + Soul sets though the playlists are in different running order. All of that being said, there is no doubt in my mind given Time-Life's modus operandai that there are other Classic Soul Ballads discs out there under different titles or in one of those 3 disc longboxes that were often sold in Costco, the last bastion of the CD longbox. As most of these discs are exact duplicates music-wise, this won't take long. There are a few single discs that I could find no Body + Soul doppelgängers for, so if you feel the need go ahead and skip down to One Heartbeat and read/listen on from there.
Love Power in the Classic Soul Ballads series is identical musically to Turn Off The Lights in the Body + Soul collection.
Sweet Thing in the Classic Soul Ballads series is identical musically to Love You Down in the Body + Soul collection.
Nite And Day in the Classic Soul Ballads series is identical musically to Always in the Body + Soul collection.
Lovin' You in the Classic Soul Ballads series is identical musically to Rock Me Tonight in the Body + Soul collection.
Songs I don't care for outnumber songs I really like on One Heartbeat, the fifth album and ninth disc in the Classic Soul Ballads collection. The album is bookended by two of my favorites: beginning with "If I Were Your Woman" by Gladys Knight & the Pips and closing with the throwback track "Heaven" by Solo, from 1995.
I like Kool & the Gang's title track, DeBarge's "All This Love", Gap Band's "Outstanding" as well as the tracks by Teena Marie, The Jets, Brian KcKnight and Jody Watley on this one. Klymaxx's "I Miss You" still resonates with me 30 years after the worst breakup in my life though its technically too damn sad to be a slow jam.
Ultimately, my three favorite songs on Quiet Storm are "Back At One", "All My Life" and the sweet acapella goodness of Shai's "If Ever I Fall In Love Again" but all in all this makes the second consecutive disc in the series to have more songs I like than dislike.
The simple love songs of Lionel Richie and the Commodores are among my all-time favorites and their "Sweet Love" kicks off In The Heart. It's romantic, happy but maybe just a little too fast for a slow jam. My other favorite song on the album is the cover of "Strawberry Letter 23" by The Brothers Johnson, which also ticks all the boxes.
Feel The Fire is lucky disc 13 in the Classic Soul Ballads series and the first one in the bunch where Spotify lets us down and doesn't give us the entire playlist. The missing tune? Midnight Star's "Slow Jam". There are three songs that strike my fancy among the other fourteen tracks, with Maxi Priest's "Close To You" and Soul II Soul's "Keep On Movin'" taking a backseat to Natalie Cole's "Our Love".
Still nursing a love hangover from the previous disc, I put on Tender Love and proceeded to work the skip to next rack button, skipping En Vogue's update of Aretha's "Giving Him Something He Can Feel" and finding teh Queen Of Soul's own "Angel", a beautiful song that takes a little while to get going with the spoken intro and all. Working that skip button, I go past Little Miss Stacy Lattisaw's cover of "Love On A Two-Way Street" and Chaka Khan (whose name I wanna repeat three times ever since "I Feel For You" came out) and her overblown production of Little Michael Jackson's "Got To Be There". Along with "Angel", I dig Jade's up-tempo "Don't Walk Away" and the silky electro-glide of The System's "Don't Disturb This Groove".
Disc 15 in the Classic Soul Ballads collection sees the inclusion of the unofficial official slow jam ("Between The Sheets") and doozies from the likes of Earth, Wind & Fire, Bill Withers, Champaign and Terence Trent D'Arby. (Spotify was missing this song.)
The final disc in a series can sometimes be the best... but not in this case. Show Me closes out the Classic Soul Ballads collection with a whimper. Two grooves worth mentioning are Raydio's "A Woman Needs Love" and The Tony Rich Project's "Nobody Knows", a tear-jerking ballad of the highest calibre but hardly a slow jam.
An easy argument can be made that by any definition, this Time-Life Collection lacks many truly classic soul ballads. If I had to guess, I'd say the whole collection is heavier on late Eighties and early Nineties music that just about any other period but if we're calling rock music from the same period "classic" than we have to apply the classification equally to the last wave of pre-millennial soul radio hits, right? If you own no other slow jams discs, these might fill your needs. Otherwise, it is mainly for us Time-Life completists who don't care how many versions of "Between The Sheets" we have on our shelves.