June marks the 1ST ANNIVERSARY of Soul Tracks. In just one year, the number of visitors to the site has jumped to almost 60,000 (in May) – a far cry from the 200 or so that visited in their first month on the internet.

With a goal of serving Soul Music fans by providing a link to the great Soul Music artists of the past 40 years as well as talented newer artists “most of whom are almost criminally under-appreciated by commercial radio”, Soul Tracks was launched in June of 2003. It includes artist bios, “where are they now” features on classic soul stars, and introductions to great modern soul artists. Some of my favourite artists are featured on this site.

But I digress!

In honor of their first anniversary, the good people at Soul Tracks have gone through all of the music that they’ve heard this year and have chosen “The Best of Soul Tracks” – the best dozen CDs of their first year of operation.

Chris Rizik writes “After some depressing years for Soul Music lovers, the quality of music over the past year has been wonderful and encouraging, and so much of it has come from “indies” — Soul artists who have sacrificed financially and personally to release music without the support of a major record label, but who have attained an artistic freedom that has resulted in extraordinary music. It is also a year in which Contemporary Gospel music continued its credible claim as the rightful heir to the classic Soul music of the 60s and 70s, mixing infectious grooves with meaningful messages. But more importantly, it was a year in which it became clearer that the best music was often the most difficult to categorize, combining elements of Jazz, Soul, Gospel and even Hip-Hop with amazing results.”

They have even done the list in alphabetical order so that there are no egos bruised in the final selection – I love them! You will notice me in the “P” for “PERRYMAN” section! If you have been reading some of the other propaganda I have been sending out to the world, you will recognize at least some of these names as we keep popping up on “Best of” or “Watch out for” lists around the internet community….Gabrielle and Marlon in particular!

Juewett Bostick: It’s Not So Easy – A fine debut album by the veteran guitarist, with excellent vocal contributions by Jean Carn, Denise Stewart and Ali Ollie Woodson. Also notable for the clever accompanying CD-ROM that uniquely demonstrated the power of technology to enhance the musical experience.
G.C. Cameron: Shadows – The culmination of a big year for the current Temptations lead singer. With Shadows, G.C. showed he could still knock it out of the park 35 years after he sang “It’s a Shame” with the Spinners.
Gabrielle Goodman: Angel Eyes – Gabrielle Goodman’s first disc in a decade was a gem, as she proved again her formidable skills as both a songwriter and a vocalist. A truly great performance.
Deitrick Haddon: Lost and Found – With the ambitious, seminal Lost and Found, Deitrick Haddon moved to the head of the class of contemporary Gospel artists. Maybe the best Gospel album of the decade.
Angela Johnson: They Don’t Know – The Cooly’s Hot Box singer showed both her soul and her versatility on this great disc, which should be at the fingertips of every Soul radio programmer.
Debra Killings: Surrender – Hot session guitarist/singer Debra Killings followed her work with OutKast with Surrender, a fine Gospel/Soul debut.
Smokie Norful: I Need You Now – The biggest surprise of the year in the Gospel/Soul world, this album was Exhibit One as to why Smokie Norful dominated the major Gospel awards.
Louise Perryman: Whisper My Name – The most soulful singer in Australia is finally getting notoriety around the world with this excellent collection of sophisticated night music. My copy is nearly worn out.
Marlon Saunders: Enter My Mind – Jazzhole lead singer Saunders mixed “old school” and “new school” on this excellent solo debut. One of the best vocal performances by anyone this year.
Soul Folk: Brothafromanothaplanet – This Bay Area singer had one of the year’s best songs with the title track, and followed with this solid, eclectic album.
John Stoddart: Wings to Walk This Road – John Stoddart virtually created a new musical form “Gospel adult contemporary” with this wonderful disc. The lush arrangements and his deep, strong voice made for great nighttime listening.
Kevin Whalum: Timetable – In a year of great CDs, this may be my favorite. Kevin Whalum was our May 2004 Featured Artist on the strength of this fantastic disc. Essential listening for lovers of intelligent, accessible Soul/Jazz vocal music.

Chris Rizik’s final word on the matter… “In a year of great music, these were, I think, the Best of the Best. Congratulations to those artists and albums that have helped make this a VERY fun year to write about Soul Music.”

If you love soul music, you really should pay them a visit at www.soultracks.com

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