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Roy Ayers

Virgin Ubiquity: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981 (BBE/Rapster)

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One day, Roy Ayers -- best known as the soul-jazz creator of the universal groove "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" -- will get his due as one of the finest composers and artists of the postmodern era. Virgin Ubiquity brings that day ever closer, with 13 songs that sound so good, it's hard to believe they were hidden in a vault somewhere for almost three decades.

Ayers's jazzy R&B fusion was obviously well ahead of its time, because these tracks don't sound dated at all. The slowly unwinding groove of "Brand New Feeling" instantly recalls "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" and features soaring female vocals that sound sped-up at first, like the hook on Kanye West's recent rap hit, "Through the Wire." Whereas most R&B songs these days would tail off at about the three-and-a-half-minute mark, Ayers keeps building, adding a horn solo, then overlapping the vocals as the tune reaches its climax almost 10 minutes after beginning. His arrangements on other tunes make today's R&B producers seem like tired hacks. These aren't just chestnuts from the disco era, but songs that hold their own with any contemporary urban sound you'd care to name.

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