20 Best R&B Albums of 2017

Sharon Jones, Khalid, SZA, Miguel and more

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Curtis Harding, 'Face Your Fear
13. Curtis Harding, 'Face Your Fear'13/20

13. Curtis Harding, 'Face Your Fear

On the follow-up to his impressive 2014 debut Soul Power, this Michigan-born, Los Angeles-based vocal stylist (and ex-CeeLo Green back-up singer) works a sensuous, raspy moan and sweet falsetto that brings to mind the funky masters of yore – not just his namesake Curtis Mayfield, but also Isaac Hayes and Bobby Womack. With a production and conceptual assist from producer Danger Mouse, Harding surrounds himself with the glossy strings and chunky, psych guitars that defined funk's late-Sixties/early-Seventies hot buttered era, but brings his own fierce, steely-eyed energy. The flinty title track is a stay-strong motivational anthem for anyone enduring a dark night of the soul, whether in love or in life; "Welcome to My World" is a celebration of sensual pleasure, as well as its limits; but "Till the End" brings it all together with a genuine and witty exchange between an on-the-road Harding and his droll partner back at home. M.J.

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