(October 3, 2023).  What you’re about to read is the most comprehensive, most stacked tribute to R&B/soul albums (and the artists who made them) ever created! This article ranks the greatest four-consecutive album streaks by artists during R&B music’s greatest period—from 1965-2000–or what this blogger considers the classic “album era.”

Recently, a poll on Quora Digest asked fans what they considered to be the greatest three-album stretch by any given artist.

For answers, those fans immediately went to pop/rock acts like the Beatles (Rubber SoulRevolverSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) and Led Zeppelin (pick any three-album sequence) as top contenders.

While some pretty good cases were made, the answers were mostly rock leaning, which caused me to ponder the same question specifically for soul/R&B artists.

That was the inspiration for this article.

Except, as I researched it, I quickly discovered that setting the bar at just three made the task next to impossible. Too many musicians had stretches of three consecutive strong albums, with many of those acts having multiple distinct three-album streaks, and the list could go on forever.

So I raised the criteria to four and the ranking became a little more discerning.  I also narrowed the time period to what is generally considered the “album era,” which many historians define as the period beginning in the mid-1960s when quality, full-length albums became more marketable to consumers (versus singles). But even with those stipulations, as you’ll find below, the list of the greatest four-in-a-row albums by these artists is still quite substantial.

During the late 1960s and early’70s, successful soul/R&B musicians began to put out important, critically acclaimed full-length albums, particularly acts like Stevie Wonder, Donna Summer, Roberta Flack, The Isley Brothers, Marvin Gaye, Rufus ft. Chaka Khan, and Earth, Wind & Fire.

While commercial singles (the 45 rpm, 7” vinyl record and, later, cassette and CD singles) remained viable throughout the 20th century, it was the full-length album that became the mark of a true musician. The album’s popularity grew through the 1970s and ‘80s, and exploded in the ‘90s and early 2000s as vinyl LPs and cassettes gave way to the compact disc.

Post-Y2K, the digital download and streaming era returned the record industry to a more singles-driven market as CD sales began to decline. Thus, for the purpose of this article, I’ve narrowed the “album era” period of consideration from 1965-2000.

What follows is a ranking of the greatest four-album streaks by soul/R&B artists during that period.

The criteria is simple: the four albums in each artist’s entry had to be released between 1965 and 2000 and had to be consecutive. Collectively, they had to have a huge impact either commercially or critically, or both.

Live albums, greatest hits collections, and other compilations of previously released songs were included if they contained at least 25 percent new studio material, as did iconic live sets by Marvin Gaye (Live at the London Palladium), Earth, Wind & Fire (Gratitude), and Donna Summer (Live and More).  In all three of those examples, the albums were double-vinyl LPs with whole sides devoted to new studio recordings (with songs that eventually became hits themselves).

Soundtrack albums are included in an artist’s set only if the artist was the primary act on the album and had at least half the songs on it.  Examples of this include Whitney Houston’s The Bodyguard, Curtis Mayfield’s Super Fly and, of course, Prince’s various soundtrack albums, as well as soundtracks by Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye and Tina Turner.  Collaborative albums (like those between Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, or between Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye) could contribute to an artist’s streak, but they generally weren’t held against an artist if he or she had four of his or her individual works surrounding the joint effort.

Sometimes artists had a great streak of more than four LPs, and it would be tough to narrow down which four-in-a-row from that streak were the strongest, so I’ve made exceptions in those cases (as long as there were no more than seven albums) and listed all of the albums as part of one entry.

If there were eight or more albums in one streak, then they were possible candidates for two separate streaks of four (and two separate entries on the list). In all cases, I’ve limited the photo montage denoting those entries to four album covers.

In cases where an artist—like Prince—released dozens of albums with multiple stretches of four strong consecutive releases, different eras were candidates for separate entries. In that regard, Prince is joined by the Jacksons/Jackson 5, Kool & the Gang and Stevie Wonder as the four acts with more than one foursome on this list. Prince has three while the Jacksons, Stevie and Kool & the Gang have two apiece, a testimony to each act’s ability to redefine their sound through multiple decades of classic or hit albums.

As a final note, there are four other artists that are also represented twice–both as leaders of the groups they represented and as solo acts: Michael Jackson (Jacksons), Diana Ross (Supremes), Chaka Khan (Rufus), and Jeffrey Osborne (LTD). Because Jackson led both the Jackson 5 and the Jacksons, he’s represented here three times, tying him with Prince.

So, let’s get right to it…here is DJROBBLOG’s exclusive ranking of the 75 strongest four-album stretches by R&B/soul artists during the album era (1965-2000)—beginning with No. 75 and scrolling down to No. 1—based on a combination of critical acclaim, chart/sales performance, and the subjectively objective, but humble, opinion of yours truly.

75. Mint Condition: Meant to Be Mint, From the Mint Factory, Definition of a Band, Life’s Aquarium

Recording for Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis’ label Perspective Records, Mint Condition were a breath of fresh air when they hit the scene in 1992 with their debut album Meant To Be Mint.  In an era of heavily programmed New Jack Swing and sample-heavy hip-hop, their records were a throwback to the days of real instruments and quality singing (lead by singer Stokley Williams).  Their first three albums produced “Breaking My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes),” “U Send Me Swingin’” “What Kind Of Man Would I Be,” and “Forever In Your Eyes.”  Their fourth album, 1999’s Life’s Aquarium, was a respectable entry and their first not on Perspective Records (Elektra).

74. LeVert: Bloodline, The Big Throwdown, Just Coolin’, Rope a Dope Style

Late brothers Gerald and Sean Levert teamed with friend Marc Gordon to form LeVert in the mid 1980s. With Gerald sounding just like his famous father Eddie (of the group the O’Jays who have their own entry much later on this list), LeVert’s four albums listed above generated five No 1 singles on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, with each album containing at least one of those hits. Six other songs from those four albums also reached the top ten. Only one of those eleven total top-10 R&B records, “Casanova,” crossed over to the Hot 100…astoundingly!

73. Delfonics: La La Means I Love You, Sound of Sexy Soul, The Delfonics, Tell Me This Is a Dream

The Delfonics out of Philly were bound for instant success with the late Thom Bell behind the boards for their first three LPs. And while Bell wasn’t around for their fourth, 1972′s Tell Me This Is a Dream, it wasn’t a huge drop-off from the first three. Collectively, the four albums produced the following hits between 1969-72: “La-La Means I Love You,” “Ready or Not Here I Come,” “You Got Yours and I’ll Get Mine,” “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time),” “Trying to Make a Fool of Me,” “When You Get Right Down to It,” “Hey! Love” and “Walk Right Up to the Sun.”

72. Midnight Star: No Parking on the Dance Floor, Planetary Invasion, Headlines, Midnight Star

In the post-EWF and Commodores days of the early-to-mid-1980s, it was tough for Black funk groups to crossover and achieve gold, much less platinum success. Enter Midnight Star out of Frankfurt, KY (of all places), who managed to hit double-platinum with their breakthrough LP No Parking on the Dance Floor in 1984. That album produced the classics “Freak-A-Zoid,” Wet My Whistle,” and the title track, while their three follow-up releases yielded the No. 1 “Operator,” plus “Curious,” “Midas Touch,” “Engine No. 9,” and “Don’t Rock the Boat.”

71. Jeffrey Osborne: Jeffrey Osborne, Stay with Me Tonight, Don’t Stop, Emotional

In 1982, Jeffrey Osborne set out to prove that he could make it on his own away from L.T.D., the group he led and had many great hits with in the 1970s (they’re coming up later on this list). With three of his first four albums (listed above) going gold and all of them reaching the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop albums top ten, I’d say he succeeded. The hits from those albums included such classics as “I Really Don’t Need No Light,” “Eenie Meenie,” “Don’t You Get So Mad,” “Plane Love,” “We’re Going All the Way,” “Don’t Stop,” “On the Wings of Love,” and his biggest pop crossover, “You Should Be Mine (the Woo Woo Song).”

70. Minnie Riperton: Perfect Angel, Adventures in Paradise, Stay in Love, Minnie

Before there was Mariah Carey, there was Minnie Riperton. The late songbird, with an assist from Stevie Wonder, took her song “Lovin’ You” all the way to No. 1 on the pop chart in 1975. It hailed from her gold-certified album Perfect Angel, which also featured the title track. Her next album Adventures in Paradise was even more critically acclaimed, containing the sexy, innuendo filled “Inside My Love” (“will you come inside me?” “Do you wanna ride, inside my love?”) and several other sultry and funky cuts co-produced by Minnie and then-husband Richard Rudolph (along with Stewart Levine). BTW, Minnie holds a note for 25 seconds (!) at the end of the second chorus on “Inside My Love.” (Folks should also check out ear candy “Love and Its Glory,” which namechecks her now-famous daughter Maya Rudolph in a story of forbidden teenage love.)

The next album Stay in Love was more disco-oriented (produced by Freddie Perren) and slowed Riperton’s momentum some. It was the first album released after her initial breast cancer diagnosis in 1976. It contained the playful “Young Willing and Able” and another Stevie Wonder collab, “Stick Together.” The last album Minnie released during her lifetime was Minnie, which contained the soul chart hits “Memory Lane” and “Lover and Friend.” She died two months after its release.

69. Bar-Kays*: Too Hot To Stop, Flying High On Your Love, Money Talks, Light of Life, Injoy

The “funk years” of the Bar-Kays almost didn’t happen after four of their members were killed in the same plane crash that took the life of Otis Redding in December 1967. But two surviving members retooled the group and, beginning in 1976 with Mercury Records (after having had success with the then-defunct Stax), they forged more success with a consistent run of hit albums and singles. The above-listed LPs produced the hits “Shake Your Rump To The Funk,” “Too Hot To Stop,” “Let’s Have Some Fun,” “Holy Ghost,” “Move Your Boogie Body,” “Shine,” and “Today Is The Day.”

68. Stephanie Mills: What Cha Gonna Do With My Lovin’, Sweet Sensation, Stephanie, Tantalizingly Hot

The joy of putting together lists like this is being able to go back and binge-listen to some of the great ones you haven’t heard in a while. That was the case with Stephanie Mills’ early 20th Century-Fox Records work, beginning with what many thought was her debut album (it wasn’t), What Cha Gonna Do with My Lovin’, which included the title track plus the disco classic “Put Your Body in It” and the remake of Peabo Bryson’s “Feel the Fire.” Her next album, Sweet Sensation, poured gasoline on that fire with its title track (a No. 3 soul chart hit) and follow-up single, “Never Knew Love Like This Before,” her biggest pop hit (No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100).

Stephanie’s next two albums weren’t as big, but still produced decent hits in “Two Hearts,” the No. 3 soul chart duet with Teddy Pendergrass plus “Last Night” and “Keep Away Girls.” Her momentum was regained three albums later with 1985’s self-titled debut on MCA Records and continued throughout the decade of the ’80s.

67. Bill Withers: Just as I Am, Still Bill, + ‘Justments, Making Music

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bill Withers didn’t even record an album until he was 32 years old—late by most standards. But that first album, Just As I Am, and the three albums that followed it, were among the best first four albums of anyone’s career. Consider these songs from those LPs: “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Grandma’s Hands,” “Lean On Me,” “Use Me,” “Kissing My Love,” “Who Is He (and What Is He To You),” and “Make Love To Your Mind.”

66. Ashford & Simpson: So So Satisfied, Send It, Is It Still Good To Ya, Stay Free

Former Motown writers Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson became a formidable partnership both in marriage and in the studio after leaving Hitsville and creating albums for themselves. While signed to Warner Brothers Records during the ’70s, the couple released eight studio albums, including three–Send It, Is It Still Good to Ya, and Stay Free–that were certified gold. Those three plus their predecessor So, So Satisfied yielded eight chart singles on the Billboard Soul chart, including the classics “Send It,” “Don’t Cost You Nothing,” “It Seems to Hang On,” “Is It Still Good to Ya,” and “Found A Cure.”

65. Atlantic Starr: Brilliance, Yours Forever, As the Band Turns, All in the Name of Love

New lead singer, new record label, no problem. This R&B/soul group out of White Plains, NY, (led by brothers Wayne, Jonathan and David Lewis) had no problem maintaining their hit streak during the mid-1980s when they said goodbye to longtime lead singer Sharon Bryant and replaced her with the equally talented Barbara Weathers. Two years later they ended their longtime relationship with A&M records and went to Warner Brothers. While this degree of change might have doomed other acts, Atlantic Starr kept the hits coming with a four-album stretch that produced classics like “Circles,” “Touch A Four-Leaf Clover,” “Silver Shadow,” “Secret Lovers,” “If Your Heart Isn’t In It,” “Always,” and “One Lover at A Time.”

64. Heatwave: Too Hot to Handle, Central Heating, Hot Property, Candles

The part-European, part-American funk and soul group Heatwave, featuring the late Wilder brothers (and lead singers) Johnny and Keith, created some of the most memorable albums of the late 1970s and early ’80s, beginning with their 1977 debut Too Hot to Handle, featuring the smash singles “Boogie Nights” and “Always and Forever,” plus classic album cuts “Ain’t No Half Steppin'” and the title track.

They continued the hit streak with their 1978 follow-up, Central Heating, which included “The Groove Line,” “Mind Blowing Decisions,” “Party Poops,” and a personal fave, “Happiness, Togetherness.” Their third album Hot Property was a high-quality set of late-disco gems like “Eyeballin'” and “One Night Tan” (the latter topped my personal Top-75 charts in 1979). Fourth album Candles produced “Gangsters of the Groove,” “Where Did We Go Wrong,” and “Posin’ ’til Closin’.”

63. Donny Hathaway: Everything Is Everything, Donny Hathaway, Come Back Charleston Blue, Extension of a Man

Donny Hathaway only released four studio albums during his lifetime (including the soundtrack for the film Come Back Charleston Brown). Those four albums represent his entry on this list. Considered a musical and singing genius from the beginning, Hathaway constructed thoughtful pieces like the classic “The Ghetto” and his stirring, gospel-infused rendition of Nina Simone’s “To Be Young, Gifted and Black,” both on his first LP Everything is Everything.

His next self-titled LP contained “A Song for You” (originally by Leon Russell), considered one of Hathaway’s signature tunes. The soundtrack for Come Back Charleston Brown was a jazz-oriented, instrumental Harlem throwback piece (in keeping with the movie’s theme), which showcased Hathaway’s versatility as a musician. Extension of a Man, which featured the classic “Someday We’ll All Be Free,” was his last LP before going on a five-year hiatus that culminated with a brief reunion with duet partner Roberta Flack (“The Closer I Get to You”) before Hathaway committed suicide in 1979.

62. Teena Marie: Wild and Peaceful, Lady T, Irons in The Fire, It Must Be Magic

On the 1981 funk/soul/rap classic “Square Biz,” when Teena Marie rapped “I’m wild and peaceful Lady T, I’ve got to keep my irons in the fire, you see,” how many fans realized she was giving a nod to the titles of her first three albums, all of which were hits just like the fourth, on which “Square Biz” appeared. Those first four LPs represented her entire Motown output, btw, producing memorable classics like “I’m a Sucker For Your Love,” “Behind the Groove,” “I Need Your Lovin’,” “Aladdin’s Lamp,” “Have My Cake and Eat It Too,” “Deja Vu,” and “Portuguese Love.”

61. Whispers: The Whispers, Imagination, This Kinda Lovin’, Love Is Where You Find It

The Whispers had been around for a while before finally hitting their stride with the production work of SOLAR Records’ Dick Griffey and later Leon Sylvers, III. Consider these classics from the above four consecutive albums they released between 1979-82: “And The Beat Goes On,” “Lady,” “A Song For Donny,” “It’s A Love Thing,” “This Kinda Lovin’,” “In The Raw,” “Emergency,” “Say Yes,” and the early ‘80s Soul Train theme, “Up On Soul Train.”

60. Slave: The Concept, Just A Touch Of Love, Stone Jam, Show Time

Slave got off to a stellar start with 1977’s self-titled album, which contained their only No. 1 soul chart single, “Slide.” But their strongest period began with their third album, 1978’s The Concept, when Steve Arrington and Starleana Young joined the group as vocalists. That album was followed by three more top-20 sets that produced memorable hits like “Just A Touch of Love,” “Watching You,” “Sizzlin’ Hot,” “Snap Shot,” and “Wait for Me,”

59. Kool & the Gang*: Ladies’ Night, Celebrate!, Something Special, As One, In the Heart, Emergency

Kool & the Gang had two incarnations—a funky mid-1970s phase, and a more pop-leaning R&B phase during the 1980s. The latter era is here at No. 59, with the venerable NJ band releasing a string of six strong albums (pick any four-in-a-row) beginning with 1979’s Ladies Night and peaking with their biggest in 1985, Emergency (which contained four top-20 hits, including their biggest pop hit from the album, “Cherish”).

58. Prince: Graffiti Bridge, Diamonds and Pearls, Love Symbol, Come

Prince released nearly 40 albums while he was alive. So, it’s no surprise that he has three separate four-album streaks represented on this list. The lowest are his first four albums released in the 1990s, beginning with the soundtrack to his “official” Purple Rain movie follow-up, Graffiti Bridge. That 1990 LP, which featured the Tevin Campell-led (and Prince backed) “Round and Round,” plus Prince’s own hit “Thieves in the Temple,” was followed by the critically acclaimed Diamonds and Pearls, the 1991 smash album containing “Cream,” “Gett Off,” “Money Don’t Matter 2 Night,” and the title track.

His next album was Love Symbol, an unpronounceable character that later became his moniker (I always admired the font creators who could reproduce that symbol for their publications). That album was full of hits, including “Sexy MF,” “My Name Is Prince,” and “7.” The final album in this foursome was Come, the first LP released after he became “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.” That highly underrated (and underpromoted) set contained the single “Letitgo” plus a host of high quality (and one-word) titles that should have been hits.

57. Stevie Wonder: For Once in My Life, My Cherie Amour, Signed, Sealed & Delivered, Where I’m Coming From

The best album in this four-LP sequence might very well be the last one, Where I’m Coming From. It represented Wonder and his then-wife Syreeta Wright showing off some excellent songwriting skills on hit tunes like “If You Really Love Me,” “Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer,” and some stellar album tracks like the cherub-infused, multi-dimensional “Sunshine In Their Eyes,” and the playful “I Wanna Talk to You.” Where I’m Coming From culminated a set of four LPs featuring some of Wonder’s biggest hits of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Just look at this list of the singles from these sets: “Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day,” “You Met Your Match,” “For Once in My Life,” “I Don’t Know Why,” “My Cherie Amour,” “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday,” “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours,” “Heaven Help Us All,” and the remake of the Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out.” Great stuff, indeed, but Stevie’s best was yet to come!

56. Barry White: I’ve Got So Much To Give, Stone Gon’, Can’t Get Enough, Just Another Way to Say I Love You

The maestro Barry White had a legendary career that included a huge comeback in 1994 with the album and single, “Practice What You Preach.” But his career got off the ground with four stellar albums starting in 1973. And that doesn’t even include his work with the Love Unlimited Orchestra, which he conducted, or the girl group Love Unlimited, which he produced. The major hits on his own first four albums included “I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby,” “Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up,” “Honey, Please, Can’t Ya See,” “Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe,” “You’re The First, The Last, My Everything,” and “What Am I Gonna Do With You.”

55. Sister Sledge: We Are Family, Love Somebody Today, All American Girls, The Sisters

Sisters Kathy, Debbie, Kim and the late Joanie Sledge had released albums before We Are Family, but that was the classic that brought them to worldwide fame in 1979. That and the follow-up, Love Somebody Today, were produced by Chic’s Nile Rodgers and the late Bernard Edwards. The Sisters went to Narada Michael Walden for their next LP, All American Girls, and then produced for themselves the highly underrated The Sisters album, which contained gems like their remake of “My Guy” and the original “All the Man That I Need” (made famous by Whitney Houston nine years later).

54. Pointer Sisters: Black & White, So Excited, Break Out, Contact

Readers won’t realize how close the Pointer sisters came to having two streaks represented on this list. Their four-album streak beginning with 1975’s Steppin’ and concluding with 1978’s Priority was a near-miss (at No. 76 on the expanded list). Their more commercially successful, first four ’80s albums (including their biggest, Break Out) generated smash hits like “Slow Hand,” “American Music,” “I’m So Excited,” “Baby, Come and Get It,” “Automatic,” “Jump (For My Love),” “Neutron Dance,” “If You Wanna Get Back Your Lady,” “I Need You,” “Freedom,” and “Dare Me.”

53. Phyllis Hyman: Goddess of Love, Living All Alone, Prime of My Life, I Refuse to Be Lonely

The four consecutive albums that get Phyllis Hyman on this list begin with her final album for Arista Records and end with the last album she recorded for Philadelphia International before taking her own life in 1995. Interestingly, the two albums with the biggest hits (“Don’t Wanna Change The World,” “Living All Alone,” “Old Friend”) fell in between. However, it was I Refuse To Be Lonely that offers the truest testimony of the internal struggle that Hyman was grappling with during her final year, with many believing it to be the best album she ever made.

52. LTD*: Love to the World, Something to Love, Togetherness, Devotion, Shine On

Jeffrey Osborne’s first four solo albums were hits in their own right (and they’re listed earlier in this countdown). But his last albums with the group LTD (for which he was lead singer and played drums) are strong enough to come in here at No. 52. Beginning with 1976’s Love to the World, which produced the No. 1 soul chart hit, “Love Ballad,” plus the top-30 title track, LTD’s hot streak included 1977’s Something to Love (the No. 1 “Back in Love Again,” “We Party Hearty”), 1978’s Togetherness (No. 1 “Holding On,” “We Both Deserve Each Other’s Love,” “Concentrate on You,” and “You Fooled Me”) and 1979’s Devotion (“Dance ‘N’ Sing ‘N’,” “Stranger,” and the highly underrated song that topped my personal charts that fall, “Share My Love”). Die-hard LTD fans can throw in 1980’s Shine On (Osborne’s last album with the group, containing the hit “Where Did We Go Wrong”) for good measure.

51. The Stylistics: The Stylistics, Round 2, Rockin’ Roll Baby, Let’s Put It All Together

Around the same time Thom Bell was ending his partnership with the Delfonics, he began manning the production boards for another Philly-based group, The Stylistics, on Avco Records. What resulted was an even bigger slate of hits for the vocal group featuring the unmistakable falsetto of lead singer Russell Thompkins, Jr. Songs like “Betcha By Golly Wow,” “You Are Everything,” “People Make the World Go Round,” “I’m Stone In Love With You,” “Break Up To Make Up,” Rockin’ Roll Baby,” “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” and “Let’s Put It All Together” all came from their first four albums out of the gate.

50. Cameo: She’s Strange, Single Life, Word Up!, Machismo

It was tough to narrow Cameo’s classic catalog down to a streak of four, but the quartet of albums listed above certainly are a strong case. And to think earlier hit LPs like Cameosis (arguably their best), Alligator Woman and Knights of the Sound Table aren’t even part of this sequence. The songs found on these four albums include “She’s Strange,” “Talkin’ Out The Side Of Your Neck,” “Attack Me With Your Love,” “Single Life,” “Word Up,” “Candy,” “Back and Forth,” and “The Skin I’m In.” Not a bad bunch.

49. James Brown: Hot Pants, There It Is, Get on the Good Foot, Black Caesar (Soundtrack)

Before the digital era catapulted Drake, Taylor Swift, and their contemporaries to unimaginable chart feats, Soul Brother Number One James Brown had more Hot 100 chart entries than anyone besides Elvis Presley (and more Soul Chart singles than anyone, period). Many of those songs were either non-album single releases, or they came from albums that were being released at the astonishing rate of sometimes four per year, with Brown occasionally sacrificed quality for quantity when it came to whole albums.

But his four strongest consecutive LPs are arguably the four listed above, which were the first four he recorded for the Polydor label (after he left King Records) and which produced several of his early ‘70s hits, including: “Escape-ism,” “Hot Pants (She Got To Use What She Got To Get What She Wants),” “Talkin’ Loud and Sayin’ Nothing,” “King Heroin,” “There It Is,” “Get On The Good Foot,” “I Got A Bag Of My Own,” and “Down and Out In New York City.”

48. Tina Turner: Private Dancer, Break Every Rule, Foreign Affair, What’s Love Got To Do With It? (Soundtrack)

No one on this list can top Tina Turner’s amazing comeback story, so it’s no surprise that her entry here begins with the album that started it all, 1984’s Private Dancer, which contained five top-40 singles, including her signature No. 1 smash “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” Her next three albums weren’t as commercially successful, but they—along with Dancer—formed a formidable quartet of releases, generating hits like “Typical Male,” “What You Get Is What You See,” “I Don’t Wanna Fight,” and another signature tune, “The Best.”

47. Diana Ross: The Boss, Diana, Why Do Fools Fall in Love?, Silk Electric

Legendary superstar Diana Ross’ best four-album sequence is split between her last two true albums for Motown and her first two for RCA Records. The set began with the sublime 1979 album The Boss, written and produced by Ashford & Simpson, followed by her biggest-selling solo LP, 1980’s Diana, produced by Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards and containing my all-time favorite, “Upside Down.” Ms. Ross took to the production boards herself for her first RCA set, 1981’s Why Do Fools Fall in Love?, before sharing credits with pre-Thriller Michael Jackson on the 1982 followup Silk Electric. The four albums generated six top-20 pop and soul hits between them: “The Boss,” “Upside Down,” “I’m Coming Out,” “Why Do Fools Fall In Love,” “Mirror, Mirror,” and “Muscles.”

46. S.O.S. Band: III, On The Rise, Just The Way You Like It, Sands of Time

The SOS Band’s first album–simply titled S.O.S.–was a major success. But the follow-up, Too, was a relative dud. Enter Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the producers of their next four albums, who’d gained success (and knowledge) with their group The Time before being recruited by the late Clarence Avant of Tabu Records to work their Minneapolis funk magic on this Atlanta, GA group. S.O.S. Band’s third-through-sixth albums were straight-up bangers, collectively generating hits like “High Hopes,” “Just Be Good to Me,” “Tell Me If You Still Care,” “Just The Way You Like It,” “No One’s Gonna Love You,” “Weekend Girl,” and “The Finest.”

45. Kool & the Gang: Wild and Peaceful, Light of Worlds, Spirit of the Boogie, Love and Understanding

As I mentioned earlier, Kool & the Gang had a complete reincarnation after disco transformed music in the late 1970s and their earlier brand of raw, progressive funk became passé. But it’s that earlier, funkier stuff that ranks higher on this list than their more polished ‘80s sheen. Their four albums between 1973 and 1976 produced classics like “Hollywood Swingin’,” “Jungle Boogie,” “Funky Stuff,” “Higher Plane,” “Summer Madness,” “Spirit of the Boogie,” and “Love and Understanding.”

44. Temptations: The Temptations Wish It Would Rain, Cloud Nine, Puzzle People, Psychedelic Shack

Motown’s greatest male group (yes, they had more chart hits than the Jackson 5 and Boyz II Men) had many great albums throughout their 60-year recording career (spanning 43 studio LPs). But the four strongest consecutive albums—excluding several collaborations with the Supremes and TV specials that occurred during the time—were recorded between 1967-70, beginning with their last to include David Ruffin—The Temptations Wish It Would Rain—and followed by three albums produced by Norman Whitfield. Those four albums produced classics like “I Wish It Would Rain,” “Run Away Child, Running Wild,” “Cloud Nine,” “Psychedelic Shack,” “I Can’t Get Next To You,” “Hum Along and Dance,” and the original version of “War,” popularized by Edwin Starr the same year (1970).

43. Rick James: Street Songs, Throwin’ Down, Cold Blooded, Glow

It was tempting to rank punk-funk svengali Rick James higher on the list. But his 1986 album Glow was somewhat of a letdown after his previous three LPs were undeniable hits, especially the multi-platinum Street Songs, Rick’s magnum opus that generated “Give It To Me, Baby,” “Super Freak,” “Ghetto Life,” and “Fire and Desire.” Had Rick’s first album, 1978’s Come Get It, been part of this streak (replacing Glow), it would have been tough to rank his set outside of the top 20. As it was, three other moderately successful albums separated Come Get It and Street Songs, making it tough to reign in which four consecutive albums constituted the late Brooklyn native’s strongest. So, I went with this grouping.

42. War: All Day Music, The World Is A Ghetto, Deliver The Word, Why Can’t We Be Friends?

Eric Burdon may have started this band, but the other members of War finished it. Their 1971 self-titled album War was their first without the former Animals leader Burdon, and their next four albums, the ones pictured above beginning with All Day Music and ending with Why Can’t We Be Friends, delivered such classics as “All Day Music,” “Slippin’ Into Darkness,” “The Cisco Kid,” “The World Is a Ghetto,” “Gypsy Man,” “Me and Baby Brother,” “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” and “Low Rider.”

41. Patti LaBelle: I’m In Love Again, Patti, Winner in You, Be Yourself

Patti LaBelle is another legendary artist whose career far exceeds any four albums she released (she’s had 35 total, including 18 studio LPs). But it would be tough to argue against the four shown above—from 1983’s I’m In Love Again to 1989’s Be Yourself—being her best stretch of four. Consider these gems from them: “If Only You Knew,” “Love, Need and Want You,” “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “New Attitude,” “Kiss Away The Pain,” “On My Own” (with Michael McDonald), “Oh People,” “If You Asked Me To,” and the Prince-penned “Yo Mister.”

40. Roberta Flack: First Take, Chapter Two, Quiet Fire, Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway, Killing Me Softly

Writers have criticized Roberta Flack–or at least they used to–for her exceedingly smooth, ultra-relaxed form of soulful pop. When you’re on a record label (Atlantic Records) whose other premier vocalist at the time was the shout-to-the-rafters powerhouse Aretha Franklin, those criticisms seemed like easy jabs. Flack’s first two albums literally contained all ballads, and she was three albums deep before the debut LP, containing “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” shot to No. 1 on the strength of that chart-topping single (in 1972). As with regular duet partner Donny Hathaway’s entry on this list, Flack’s joint album with him interrupted her solo streak, but she kept the hits coming with her fourth solo album, Killing Me Softly (containing the No. 1 title track).

39. Commodores:  Hot on the Tracks, Commodores, Natural High, Midnight Magic

The Commodores from Tuskegee, Alabama were easily Motown’s biggest act of the last half of the 1970s and early ‘80s. Their seemingly endless hit streak was buoyed by the songwriting of Lionel Richie and the stellar production of James Carmichael. The group was at its peak with the four albums that began with 1976’s Hot On The Tracks and culminated with 1979’s Midnight Magic. The classic songs from those albums included “Just To Be Close To You,” “Fancy Dancer,” “Easy,” “Brick House,” “Zoom,” “Three Times A Lady,” “Sail On,” “Still,” and “Wonderland,” plus a host of other unforgettable album cuts.

38. Parliament: Mothership Connection, The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein, Funketelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome, Motor Booty Affair

George Clinton’s P-funk collective hit its commercial stride in the last half of the 1970s, with both Parliament and Funkadelic delivering big chart hits, sometimes in the same year. But it’s Parliament who had the strongest set of four consecutive albums between 1976’s Mothership Connection and ‘79’s Motor Booty Affair. Those four LPs produced memorable hits like “Tear The Roof Off The Sucker (Give Up The Funk),” “P-Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up),” “Star Child (Mothership Connection),” “Do That Stuff,” “Bop Gun,” “Flashlight,” and “Aqua Boogie.”

37. Brothers Johnson: Look Out For #1, Right On Time, Blam!, Light Up The Night

The Brothers Johnson were protégés to super producer and musician Quincy Jones, so failure was highly unlikely from the start. Still, no one could’ve predicted the massive out-of-the-box success they’d have with their first four albums, all of which went platinum, beginning with 1976’s Look Out For #1, a chart level they achieved several times. Three of the four albums reached No. 1 on the Billboard Soul chart, with the outlier, 1977’s Right On Time, stopping at No. 2. Interestingly, that album contained their signature smash “Strawberry Letter 23,” which itself was their second of three No. 1 soul singles (with “I’ll Be Good to You” and “Stomp” being the others).

36. Natalie Cole: Inseparable, Natalie, Unpredictable, Thankful

An interesting tidbit about Natalie Cole’s first four albums all being one-word titles is that they all contained No. 1 soul chart hits. Inseparable included “This Will Be” and “Inseparable,” while Natalie had “Sophisticated Lady.” Her third album Unpredictable contained “I’ve Got Love On My Mind” and her fourth, Thankful, housed “Our Love.” Other outstanding cuts on those albums were the effervescent “Party Lights” and the calming “La Costa.” Her fifth album added a few words to the title, I Love You So, and wasn’t nearly as successful.

35. Supremes: More Hits by the Supremes, I Hear a Symphony, The Supremes A’ Go-Go, The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland

What can you say about a group who hailed from the Brewster Projects in Detroit and had twelve No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1964-69, second only to the Beatles in that timeframe. The Motown assembly line often put out multiple albums by the Supremes that were sometimes separated by only a few months (including concept albums like A Bit of Liverpool; The Supremes Sing Country, Western and Pop; We Remember Sam Cooke). But their strongest streak of four consecutive studio albums–excluding an intervening Merry Christmas set in November 1965–were the above four, which generated nine top-ten hits, including six of their No. 1 smashes: “Stop! In the Name of Love,” “Back in My Arms Again,” “I Hear a Symphony,” “You Can’t Hurry Love,” “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” and “Love Is Here and Now You’re Gone.”

34. Gap Band: Gap Band II, Gap Band III, Gap Band IV, Gap Band V: Jammin’

Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Gap Band, featuring Charlie Wilson and his late brothers Ronnie and Robert, released more than two dozen albums, including live sets and compilations. The biggest streak of four were, by far, the self-titled LPs Gap Band II, III, IV, and V: Jammin’. Released between 1979-83, those four albums housed hits like “I Don’t Believe You Want to Get Up and Dance (Oops, Up Side Your Head),” “Burn Rubber,” “Yearnin’ for Your Love,” “Early in the Morning,” “You Dropped a Bomb on Me,” “Outstanding,” and “Party Train.” Hard to top that output.

33. Freddie Jackson: Rock Me Tonight, Just Like the First Time, Don’t Let Love Slip Away, Do Me Again

I was always astonished at soul crooner Freddie Jackson’s amazing chart career during the second half of the 1980s and early ‘90s. He amassed ten No. 1 soul chart singles in the span of six years (1985-91), more than anyone else in that period besides Janet Jackson, yet has never really been referred to as the King of R&B. All ten of those No. 1 songs, including classics like “Rock Me Tonight,” “You Are My Lady,” “Have You Ever Loved Somebody,” “Tasty Love” and “Jam Tonight,” can be found on his first four albums, along with several other chart hits.

32. Ohio Players: Skin Tight, Fire, Honey, Contradiction

The Ohio Players’ mid-1970s output deserves to be on this list based on their album covers alone. Few, if any, artists were willing to take the risk of featuring scantily clad women, particularly Black ones, on their covers. But, more importantly, all four of their albums from 1974’s Skin Tight to 1976’s Contradiction received gold or platinum certification and contained huge hits, including “Skin Tight,” “Fire,” “I Want to Be Free,” “Sweet Sticky Thing,” “Love Rollercoaster,” and “Who’d She Coo.”

31. Quincy Jones: Sounds…and Stuff Like That, The Dude, Back on the Block, Q’s Jook Joint

Producer, conductor and hitmaking dynamo Quincy Jones will forever be remembered for his work with artists like George Benson (who just missed making this list), Brothers Johnson, Patti Austin, James Ingram and, of course, Michael Jackson. But—despite his busy production schedule—Jones found time to deliver his own set of jazz/R&B/funk fusion classics, including the above four, which from 1977 to 1995 generated the hits “Stuff Like That” (featuring Ashford & Simpson and Chaka Khan on vocals), “Ai No Corrida,” “One Hundred Ways,” “Just Once,” (the last two featuring James Ingram), “Razzamatazz” (featuring Patti Austin), “I’ll Be Good to You” (a remake of the Brothers Johnson smash featuring Ray Charles and Chaka Khan on vocals), “Back on the Block” (featuring rappers Kool Moe Dee, Ice-T, Melle Mel and Big Daddy Kane), “Tomorrow (A Better You, Better Me)” (featuring Tevin Campbell), “The Secret Garden” (El Debarge, James Ingram, Barry White), “Birdland,” and “You Put a Move on My Heart” (featuring Tamia). Whew!

30. Chic: Chic, C’est Chic, Risqué, Real People

Followers of DJROBBLOG, as well as close friends and family members, know that this blogger is Chic’s biggest fan. So, it was a given that their first four albums—all classics (IMHO)—would be on this list. The fact that I ranked them no higher than No. 30 is my attempt at being objective as I realize that many other acts had stronger four-album sequences than this disco band out of New York fronted by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Nile Rodgers and the late Bernard Edwards. Still, the hits spanning these four albums are palpable (“Dance, Dance, Dance,” “Everybody Dance,” “Le Freak,” “I Want Your Love,” “Good Times,” “My Forbidden Lover,” “Rebels Are We”). Add to that some classic album cuts (“At Last I Am Free,” “Will You Cry,” “A Warm Summer Night,” “You Can Get By”) and there’s no denying Chic’s influence or that they belong here!

29. The Jacksons: The Jacksons, Goin’ Places, Destiny, Triumph

Of the four acts with multiple entries on this list, only the Jacksons have two that are totally represented by two different record labels. Their first four albums with Motown are coming up a bit later, while their first four albums with Epic Records are right here at No. 29. Not only did the Jacksons hook up with Motown’s main record-generating competition in Philly Soul’s Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff for their first two Epic LPs—the self-titled debut set featuring the million-selling “Enjoy Yourself” and the even worthier, “Show You the Way to Go,” plus follow-up album Goin’ Places (featuring “Find Me a Girl”)—but they began producing their own material with the classics Destiny and Triumph, easily the best two albums of their storied Epic Records history. Diehard Jackson fans will be lobbying for Victory–their fifth Epic album–to be added to this list. It certainly doesn’t detract from its four predecessors.

28. Donna Summer: I Remember Yesterday, Once Upon a Time, Live and More, Bad Girls

The Queen of Disco is at her core an R&B/pop artist, as her late career albums attested. Still, her last four studio albums of the 1970s, beginning with 1977’s I Remember Yesterday and ending with 1979’s Bad Girls, are what catapulted her to superstar status. Those four albums contained eight top-40 hits, including the pioneering “I Feel Love” and No. 1 smashes “Hot Stuff” and “Bad Girls.” Another No. 1, 1978’s “MacArthur’s Park,” took up the whole side of a vinyl album as part of a 17-minute, three-song “suite,” which is how the Live and More album is eligible for this set.

27. Mary J. Blige: What’s the 411, My Life, Share My World, Mary

Queen of Hip-Hop Soul Mary J. Blige has made some incredible albums throughout her 32-year career, but none were collectively as strong as her first four, beginning with What’s the 411, the 1992 album that put her on the map and gave us hits like “Real Love,” “You Remind Me,” “Love No Limit,” “Reminisce,” and her remake of Rufus’ “Sweet Thing.” Her magnum opus was the 1994 follow-up album, My Life, which featured a more pensive Mary J. crooning over classics like “Be Happy,” “You Bring Me Joy,” “Mary Jane (All Night Long),” and the Rose Royce remake “I’m Goin’ Down.”

Her next set, 1997’s Share My World, was her first No. 1 LP on the Billboard 200 and continued the hits with “Love Is All We Need,” and the Lil Kim-featured “I Can Love You.” Her fourth proper album, 1999’s Mary, included a remake of Stevie Wonder’s “As,” plus the stellar “All That I Can Say” and “Your Child.” Mary’s commercial and critical success continued into the 2000s, but this list’s cutoff is 2000…otherwise, her streak would easily extend to eight or nine albums.

26. Maze featuring Frankie Beverly: Inspiration, Joy and Pain, Live in New Orleans, We Are One

The soul group with arguably the largest concert following of any group on this list released so many great albums between their 1977 self-titled debut and their final studio album, 1993’s Back to Basics, that it’s hard to pin the Philly-based band’s four best-in-a-row. After some serious deliberation, fueled by some intense re-listening to a sampling of them, I settled on the above four, which came out between 1979 and 1983 and included a live set that features one of the most beloved songs in R&B history, “Before I Let Go.” Other classics from these four albums include “Feel That You’re Feelin’,” “The Look in Your Eyes,” “Joy and Pain,” “Southern Girl,” “We Need Love to Live,” “Running Away,” “Love Is the Key” and “We Are One.”

25. Mariah Carey*: Mariah Carey; Emotions; Music Box; Merry Christmas, Daydream, Butterfly

Superstar singer Mariah Carey has more No. 1 Hot 100 singles (19) than anyone besides the Beatles (20). Ten of those number one hits came from her first four proper albums: her self-titled debut (with “Vision of Love,” “Love Takes Time,” “Someday,” “I Don’t Wanna Cry”), Emotions (with the title track), Music Box (“Dreamlover,” “Hero”), and Daydream (“Fantasy,” “One Sweet Day” and “Always Be My Baby”). What’s more, if you squeeze in the two interim albums she released during that period–a live MTV unplugged set and her first Christmas album–you’d get two more No. 1s: “I’ll Be There” (a remake of the old J-5 hit) and “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Hard to top that kind of hit output.

24. Teddy Pendergrass: Teddy Pendergrass, Life Is a Song Worth Singing, Teddy, TP

As the lead-singer of the Philadelphia band Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, soul crooner and sex symbol Teddy Pendergrass didn’t do them any favors when he left the group in 1976. He did himself plenty of justice though as his first five solo LPs all went platinum, including the above four, which generated hits like “I Don’t Love You Anymore,” “The Whole Town’s Laughing at Me,” “Close the Door,” “Only You,” When Somebody Loves You Back,” “Get Up, Get down, Get Funky, Get Loose,” “Turn off the Lights,” “Come Go With Me,” “Can’t We Try,” “Love T.K.O.,” and his duet remake of the Peabo Bryson song “Feel the Fire” (with Stephanie Mills).

23. Chaka Khan: Chaka, Naughty, What ‘Cha Gonna Do for Me, Chaka Khan

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer (man, it felt good to type that!) Chaka Khan was bound for solo superstardom after providing soul-stirring vocals on her group Rufus’ major records (their greatest four-album streak is coming up later on this list). Starting with the album Chaka (and its signature No. 1 anthem, “I’m Every Woman,” plus the gospel-tinged “Love Has Fallen On Me” and “Roll Me Through The Rushes”) and continuing through Naughty (“Clouds,” “Papillon (aka Hot Butterfly),” “Move Me No Mountains”), What ‘Cha Gonna Do For Me (title track, “I Know You, I Live You”), and Chaka Khan (“Got To Be There,” “Tearin’ It Up,” and “Be Bop Medley: Hot House / East of Suez (Come On Sailor) / Epistrophy (I Wanna Play) / Yardbird Suite / Con Alma / Giant Steps”), Chaka’s first four albums are as formidable as anyone’s.

22. Curtis Mayfield: Curtis, Roots, Super Fly, Back to the World

When it comes to Curtis Mayfield, many think of his 1960s work with the Impressions (a group that just missed these rankings) and his ‘70s soundtrack work (Mayfield curated No. 1 soul chart albums for the mostly Black-casted films ClaudineLet’s Do It Again and Sparkle).  But in between those eras were nestled his first four solo albums, listed above, which included another No. 1 soundtrack, the classic Super Fly, itself surrounded by three other stellar albums: 1970’s Curtis, 1971’s Roots, and 1973’s Back to the World.  All were critically acclaimed for their socially conscious themes and Curtis’ impeccable writing and production.  Hits on these first four solo efforts included “(Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Going to Go,” “Move on Up,” “Freddie’s Dead,” “Super Fly,” “Pusherman,” “Give Me Your Love,” “Future Shock” and “Kung Fu.”

21. Gladys Knight & the Pips: Neither One of Us, Imagination, Claudine (soundtrack), I Feel a Song

Several acts on this list made big career leaps from one major record label to another and still managed to keep their hit streaks going. Gladys Knight & The Pips were certainly one of those acts. They moved from Motown to Buddah in 1973 and had one hit LP apiece for both labels that year, a streak that continued for Buddah the following year with two more albums: the Claudine Soundtrack (produced by Curtis Mayfield) and I Feel A Song, which contained the title track and their memorable remake of Barbra Streisand’s “The Way We Were” coupled with “Try To Remember.” Other iconic songs from this album foursome included “Neither One Of Us,” “Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me,” “I’ve Got To Use My Imagination,” “On and On,” “Make Yours A Happy Home,” and, of course, “Midnight Train To Georgia.”

20. Prince: For You, Prince, Dirty Mind, Controversy

Prince’s first four albums would have stood on their own merits even if he hadn’t broken into international superstar territory with his next four LPs (which have their own entry a little later). As explained earlier, I tried not to break consecutive albums into separate streaks, but Prince is Prince. Think of these first four as his pre-Revolution days. Among the hits from these four albums were “Soft and Wet,” “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” “Uptown,” “Do Me, Baby,” “Controversy,” “Let’s Work,” and important album cuts like “I Feel For You” and “When You Were Mine.”

19. Isaac Hayes*: Hot Buttered Soul, The Isaac Hayes Movement, …To Be Continued, Shaft (Soundtrack), Black Moses, Joy

Beginning in 1969 with Hot Buttered Soul and culminating with the 1971 soundtrack to the movie Shaft, the late Isaac Hayes created some of the most iconic soul albums in music history.  Recorded for the Stax label (under the Enterprise imprint), Hayes’ albums arguably kept the label financially afloat during its final struggling years. The first three of those LPs had three things in common: lush instrumentation conducted by Hayes himself, lengthy numbers (each album contained only four or five tracks, many clocking at more than 8 minutes), and covers of earlier pop tunes by the likes of people like Burt Bacharach/Hal David, which Hayes made into his own soulful epics. (This article is ironically being written while one of those tunes, “Walk On By” in its original version by Dionne Warwick, is sampled into the current No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 by rapper Doja Cat.).

But back to Hayes, his biggest album was the Shaft soundtrack, which won him an Oscar for its smash hit title song (making him only the third Black person to win an Academy Award).  Even if you discard the soundtrack, Hayes’ next album, 1971’s Black Moses, which included the hit remake of the Jackson 5’s “Never Can Say Goodbye,” and another Bacharach/David tune, “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” stood right up there with the rest.

18. R. Kelly: 12 Play, R. Kelly, R., TP-2.com

Love him or hate him, you can’t erase the fact that R. Kelly was THE premier R&B vocalist of an era, and his music exists despite the personal troubles that have landed him in prison for likely the rest of his life. After launching his career with the band Public Announcement in 1991, the Chicago native released ten straight platinum or multi-platinum albums. The first four of those, shown above, account for 23 million in RIAA certifications and include classics like “Sex Me,” “Your Body’s Callin’,” “Bump N’ Grind,” “You Remind Me of Something,” “Down Low (Nobody Has to Know),” “I Can’t Sleep Baby (If I),” “I Believe I Can Fly,” “Half on a Baby,” “You to be (Be Happy)” (with the Notorious B.I.G.), “I’m Your Angel,” “When a Woman’s Fed Up,” “I Wish,” “Fiesta (Remix)” and “Feelin’ on Yo Booty.”

17. Anita Baker: The Songstress, Rapture, Giving You The Best That I Got, Compositions

Anita Baker is indeed a Songstress, as her first album’s title suggests. But that 1983 entry was just the tip of the iceberg we’d experience with the first four albums of her catalog, which continued with her breakout hit album (and first for the Elektra label) Rapture in 1986 and the follow-ups Giving You the Best That I Got (her only No. 1 pop chart album) plus 1990’s Compositions. Consider these classics from those four LPs: “Angel,” “You’re the Best Thing Yet,” “Sweet Love,” “Caught Up in the Rapture,” “Same Ole Love (365 Days a Year),” “No One in the World,” “You Bring Me Joy,” “Been So Long,” “Giving You the Best That I Got,” “Just Because,” “Priceless,” “Lead Me Into Love,” “Talk To Me,” and “Fairytales.”

16. Spinners: Spinners, Mighty Love, New and Improved, Pick of the Litter

The Spinners out of Detroit began their hitmaking days on the Motown label (recall 1970’s “It’s A Shame”). But it wasn’t until they moved to Atlantic Records and hooked up with Thom Bell that the newly minted Rock and Roll Hall of Famers became consistent hitmakers with the above four albums, which produced a slew of consecutive hits from 1972-75, including “I’ll Be Around,” “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love,” “One of a Kind (Love Affair),” “Ghetto Child,” “How Could I Let You Get Away,” “Mighty Love,” “I’m Coming Home,” “Love Don’t Love Nobody,” “Then Came You” (with Dionne Warwick), “Sadie,” “Living a Little, Laughing a Little,” “Love or Leave,” and “Games People Play.” Their next album after these four, 1976’s Happiness is Being with the Spinners, produced their biggest non-collaboration, “The Rubberband Man,” but the album as a whole couldn’t stand up to the previous four.

15. Al Green: Let’s Stay Together, I’m Still in Love with You, Call Me, Livin’ for You

Memphis soul legend Al Green released six consecutive No. 1 soul albums, with the first four of those happening in just two years: 1972 and ‘73.  All four of those albums were certified gold or platinum with a couple of them—particularly I’m Still in Love with You and Call Me—being considered among the best soul albums of all time.  There’s no doubt the Rev. Dr. Green belongs on this list with iconic hits like “Let’s Stay Together,” “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” “I’m Still in Love with You,” “Love and Happiness,” “For the Good Times,” “Look What You Done for Me,” “Call Me (Come Back Home),” “Here I Am (Come and Take Me),” “You Ought To Be with Me,” “Livin’ for You,” and “Let’s Get Married” gracing those four albums.

14. O’Jays*: Backstabbers, Ship Ahoy, Survival, Family Reunion, Message in the Music

The Canton, Ohio band the O’Jays didn’t really hit paydirt until they connected with Philly soul pioneers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. That union generated eight-consecutive gold or platinum-certified albums beginning with the above four (or five if you include Message in Our Music, which I do). With longtime lead vocalists Eddie Levert and Walter Williams anchoring them through many third-member changes, the band’s hits from those first four PIR albums include “Back Stabbers,” “992 Arguments,” “Love Train,” “Time to Get Down,” “Sunshine,” “Put Your Hands Together,” “For the Love of Money,” “Now That We Found Love,” “Give the People What They Want,” “Let Me Make Love to You,” “Family Reunion,” “Livin’ for the Weekend,” “Stairway to Heaven,” and “I Love Music.” Message in Our Music made it a streak of five and includes two more No. 1 hits: the title track and “Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby (Sweet, Tender, Love).”

13. Jackson 5*: Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5, ABC, Third Album, Jackson 5 Christmas Album, Maybe Tomorrow

Few groups’ careers started as strongly as the Jackson 5’s did. A little marketing savvy linked the brothers’ discovery to Motown’s Diana Ross, whose name appears on their debut album, although it’s been since said that Gladys Knight was the one who got them signed. Either way, it’s tough to beat their first four albums, three of which contained No. 1 singles, with the fourth considered one of the best Christmas recordings of the 20th century. Even if you discard the Christmas album, their fifth release, 1971’s Maybe Tomorrow, kept the big hits coming with Michael’s cherubic but soulful lead vocals on “Never Can Say Goodbye” and the title track. Big hits from their first three albums include “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save,” “I’ll Be There,” “I Found That Girl,” “Going Back To Indiana,” “Who’s Loving You,” and “Mama’s Pearl.”

12. Sade: Diamond Life, Promise, Stronger Than Pride, Love Deluxe

While Sade is technically a band, it clearly wouldn’t have existed or been as successful without lead vocalist Helen Folasade Adu, the Nigerian-born British singer whose namesake the band bears and whose picture graced all of its album covers, beginning with their 1985 debut Diamond Life and continuing with Promise, Stronger Than Pride, and Love Deluxe. All four of those albums went triple-platinum or better, and generated such smooth, progressive jazz/soul classics as “Smooth Operator,” “Your Love Is King,” “Hang on to Your Love,” “The Sweetest Taboo,” “Is It a Crime?,” “Jezebel,” “Tar Baby,” “Never as Good as the First Time,” “Paradise,” “Nothing Can Come Between Us,” “No Ordinary Love,” “Kiss of Life,” “Cherish the Day” and “Feel No Pain.”

11. Rufus ft. Chaka Khan: Rags to Rufus, Rufusized, Rufus ft. Chaka Khan, Ask Rufus

There are only four entities on this list who are represented both as solo acts and as part of groups: Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Jeffrey Osborne, and Chaka Khan. The group Rufus featuring Chaka Khan went on a tear in the mid-1970s after their first hit single, “Tell Me Something Good,” went to No. 3 on both the pop and soul charts. Just consider this list of other hit singles from the four albums in this sequence: “You Got The Love,” “Once You Get Started,” “Please Pardon Me (You Remind Me of a Friend),” “Sweet Thing,” “Dance Wit Me,” “At Midnight (My Love Will Lift You Up),” “Hollywood,” and “Everlasting Love.” When you throw in stellar album tracks like “In Love We Grow,” “Somebody’s Watchin’ You,” “Pack’d My Bags,” “Your Smile,” “Stop on By,” “Fools Paradise,” “Close the Door,” “Earth Song” and “Magic in Your Eyes,” you have the reason I’ve binged these four albums on repeat for decades since their release.

10. Isley Brothers*: 3+3, Live It Up, The Heat Is On, Harvest for the World, Go for Your Guns

I had the pleasure of interviewing former Isley Brother Chris Jasper for this blog six years ago. It was his addition to the group in 1973, along with younger Isleys Ernie and Marvin, that led to their classic period of albums beginning with 3+3, which contained the smash “That Lady,” and continuing through their next nine albums. The strongest string of four were their output from 1973-76, albums that included iconic songs like “Live It Up,” “(At Your Best) You Are Love,” “Fight The Power,” “For The Love Of You,” Harvest For The World,” “Who Loves You Better” and the original “Make Me Say It Again Girl.” I’ve added the next album in their set (1977’s Go For Your Guns) because one could argue that it was just as strong as the prior four LPs with songs like “Footsteps In The Dark,” “Voyage to Atlantis” and the No. 1 “The Pride” on it.

9. Luther Vandross*:  Never Too Much; Forever, For Always, For Love; Busy Body; The Night I Fell in Love; Give Me the Reason; Any Love

Luther Vandross paid his dues for years before finally securing a solo recording contract with Epic Records in 1981. He had sung commercial jingles, did backup vocals for major stars like David Bowie, Chaka Khan, Chic and others, and even performed as part of groups (Bionic Boogie, Luther, Change). But his 1981 debut, Never Too Much, established him as a star in his own right, a status that was solidified by his follow-up albums and the many hits they contained. I contend that his first four (actually six) were among the ten strongest sets of consecutive albums any soul act ever put together (and the streak didn’t end there). Consider these classics from the first four alone: “Never Too Much,” “Don’t You Know That?,” “A House Is Not A Home,” “Bad Boy/Having A Party,” “Forever, For Always, For Love,” “Better Love,” “Superstar/Until You Come Back To Me,” “Wait For Love,” “Til My Baby Comes Home,” and “Make Me A Believer.” Need I say more?

8. Janet Jackson: Control, Rhythm Nation 1814, janet., Velvet Rope

Pop music icon Janet Jackson has one of the strongest sets of four-straight albums of all time. Beginning with 1986’s Control, which heralded her independence from her family (specifically her father) and continuing with Rhythm Nation 1814 (signaling her concern for the world around her), janet. (channeling her sexuality) and The Velvet Rope (her introspection and pain), each album told a different story reflecting a chapter in Ms. Jackson’s evolution as both a person and an artist. Most importantly, each album—so masterfully collaborated on by Janet and producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis—contained mountains of hit songs too numerous to mention by title here. Suffice it to say that these four albums contained 21 top-40 hits between them, including 20 top-10s, eight of which were No. 1 singles on the Hot 100.

7. Marvin Gaye*: What’s Going On, Let’s Get It On, I Want You, Trouble Man (soundtrack), Live at the London Palladium

There are 17 entries on this list by acts that were at some point signed to Motown Records. The Prince Emeritus of that label is legendary crooner Marvin Gaye whose four albums from 1971-76 represent his critical peak. Starting with the socially conscious What’s Going On in 1971, Marvin redefined soul music with his poignant messages concerning the ongoing Vietnam War, the environment (we called it the ecology back then), and social justice issues. It’s likely an album like that would never make it in the “anti-woke” 2020s, but thank goodness Marvin had the courage to release it when he did.

His next three albums were no slouches either, particularly his 1973 entry, Let’s Get It On, with its sensual No. 1 title track. Other songs from this four-album set included “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology),” “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler),” “I Want You,” “Come Get to This,” “You Sure Love to Ball,” “Trouble Man,” “After the Dance,” and “I Want You.” If you throw in his Live at the London Palladium album from 1977, you get the dance classic “Got to Give It Up,” a No. 1 smash across the board that took up the whole side of a vinyl LP.

6. Earth, Wind & Fire: That’s The Way of The World; Gratitude; Spirit; All ‘n All

Self-contained Black groups consisting of seven, eight, and sometimes nine members were the norm in the 1970s and early ‘80s. The most successful of those? Earth, Wind & Fire, who were primarily of the nine-member variety. Their whole album output from 1973’s Head To The Sky to 1983’s Powerlight is legendary. But the best streak within that set was from 1975-77 when they released That’s The Way Of The World—one of the first albums by a Black band to reach No. 1–followed by Gratitude (another No. 1), Spirit and All ‘n All. Gratitude was a live album that contained Philip Bailey’s iconic performance of “Reasons,” plus four new tracks on Side 4 of the double-vinyl LP. The hits from these four albums are too many to mention here, but it’s worth noting that none of them are named “September” (which was from a greatest hits set in 1978).

5. Whitney Houston: Whitney Houston, Whitney, I’m Your Baby Tonight, Bodyguard Soundtrack

The second-highest ranked set of albums on this list by a woman are the first four by Whitney Houston. Her self-titled debut made her an instant superstar and began a streak of hits that continued with Whitney, her second album. By 1988, she had become the first artist to score an uninterrupted streak of seven straight No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100. Her good fortunes continued with I’m Your Baby Tonight, a third album that reconnected the New Jersey native with her Black music audience and generated two more No. 1 singles (the title track and “All the Man that I Need”). But none of that prepared Whitney—or the rest of the world—for what came next, The Bodyguard Soundtrack, which generated her biggest hit in the remake of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.”

4. Prince*: 1999, Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day, Parade: Under the Cherry Moon, Sign O’ the Times

There are some who would argue that Prince’s first four albums are better than his second four, at least artistically. I am not one of those people. I still consider his “Revolution” period to be his best. And while that “officially” started with 1984’s Purple Rain, it essentially began with 1982’s 1999, which featured many of the Revolution’s members and found Prince at his most provocative with cuts like “Irresistible Bitch” and “Let’s Pretend We’re Married.” Of course, singles like “Little Red Corvette,” “1999” and “Delirious” are what put Prince on the mainstream map and set the stage for his next release: Purple Rain. That album (and movie) is iconic and contained four top-10 hits and many more classic cuts. It made Prince an international superstar and reigned at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for 24 consecutive weeks. Around The World In A Day and Parade were next and, sadly, they completed his Prince & the Revolution era. (Prince purists would be justified in adding his next album, 1987’s Sign O’ The Times, to this sequence of iconic consecutive albums, which I did).

3. Aretha Franklin: I Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You, Aretha Arrives, Lady Soul, Aretha Now

Was there any vocalist greater than the Queen? Okay, No. 3 ranking on this list aside, was there anyone else who sang as well as she did? After a brief stint with Columbia Records, the Queen of Soul’s move over to Atlantic launched one of the most storied careers in music history. Franklin was mostly known for her singles (and the record number of Grammy awards she received because of them). But those songs came from some formidable soul-stirring albums in the late 1960s, beginning with her first four Atlantic Records LPs shown above, which generated an endless stream of classics, including: “I Never Loved A Man,” “Respect,” “Dr. Feelgood,” “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” “Baby, I Love You,” “Chain of Fools,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone,” “Ain’t No Way,” “Think,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “See Saw,” and a remake of Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me.”

2. Michael Jackson: Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad, Dangerous

I deliberated long and hard about the top two—not who belonged there, but in which order. Ultimately, Michael Jackson took the runner-up spot. There’s no denying his four iconic albums from Off the Wall to Dangerous—which happen to include his two best-sellers Thriller and Bad—have had more commercial impact than anyone else’s on this list, accounting for more than 150 million in worldwide album sales between them. They were groundbreaking creations, accompanied by music videos that helped place Michael in another stratosphere when it came to music superstars. It’s that last part—the music videos—which helped inform this decision. While there’s no doubt MJ’s albums stand on their own merits, commercially and critically, the artist at No. 1 didn’t have the benefit of the video era to serve as an assist. But being runner-up to that artist is no insult. Quick fact: MJ’s four albums from Off the Wall to Dangerous contained 14 No. 1 hits on the pop or soul chart, or both. Unbelievable!

1. Stevie Wonder*: Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness First Finale, Songs in the Key of Life

Ever notice the orange/brown hue the collective covers for Stevie Wonder’s four albums from Talking Book to Songs in the Key of Life contained? Taken collectively, they provide a unifying African desert earth-tone to albums that definitely celebrated Black as well as universal love. Wonder (no pun intended) if that was intentional?

These four albums—released from late 1972 to late 1976–have been referred to as forming Wonder’s “classic album period,” and with good reason. Already a superstar, the musical genius demanded and gained total creative control over his albums with the 1972 release Music of My Mind (arguably the first LP in a five-album classic period), which contained “Superwoman/ Where Were You When I Needed You.” The follow-up, Talking Book, generated two No. 1 pop singles— “Superstition” and “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”—plus classic album cuts like “Tuesday Heartbreak” and “You and I.” The next album, Innervisions, included more socially conscious fare like “Higher Ground” and “Living for the City,” both of which topped the soul chart. That album also won Stevie his first of three Album of the Year Grammy awards, a streak continued by his next two albums, Fulfillingness First Finale and the iconic Songs in the Key of Life, which became only the third album—and the first by a Black artist—to enter the chart at No. 1 in October 1976. Much more could be said about these landmark LPs, each of which contained at least two No. 1 hits (pop, soul, or both) and a slew of legendary album cuts that rank above most other artists’ hit singles. But I’ll stop now. Suffice it to say that Stevie stands alone as having the best set of four consecutive album releases of any R&B/Soul artist, past or present!

So, what do you think? Which artists’ four-set of consecutive albums do you feel are the best? Who do you feel was left out? George Benson? Ray Charles? Regina Belle? New Edition? En Vogue? Smokey? Lionel? Jodeci? Believe me, they were all considered, but yours truly didn’t identify four consecutive albums by those acts that met the mark.

But you might. Provide your comments in the section below or on any of the social media feeds where the article is posted.


DJRob (he/him/his), whose research included recently listening to many of these albums, is a freelance music blogger from the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop, rock and (sometimes) country genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog and on Meta’s Threads.

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6 thoughts on “The Strongest Streaks of Four Consecutive Albums by R&B Artists (1965-2000): Ranked!”
  1. I consider Prince’s sequence from Dirty Mind to Lovesexy to be unparalleled in popular music. Only Stevie, the Beatles, Aretha and a few others can come close.

    1. Yeah, it’s hard to top that sequence of eight albums. Picking the best four in a row from those was tough, so I included his first two albums and broke his streak up (and added a third beginning with Diamonds and Pearls). But Prince is clearly in a class by himself with that kind of dilemma and consistency!

      1. Right, and you listed five albums for your number 4 pick instead of four. That’s because he couldn’t be contained in those days. He could have released 5 more masterpieces in between the others. I love Stevie and Aretha too, so I won’t argue about their placement. I don’t agree on Michael Jackson, I’ve never seen him in the same league as these 3.

        1. Yeah, I love MJ. Musically, his albums are more polished and clearly the result of some studio mastery. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and I gave him credit for the commercial and cultural impact those albums had. This list wasn’t about who I loved or didn’t like. If it were, Chic would’ve been No. 3, and Earth, Wind & Fire possibly 2.

          1. Earth, Wind & Fire were giants. I think many black artists don’t get the credit they deserve. Black music has been the main force for over a century now, but still most of the credit somehow manages to land somewhere else. I mean, James Brown, Nina Simone, Jimi Hendrix, Prince, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Muddy Waters, Rosetta Tharpe, Howlin’ Wolf, Erykah Badu, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Etta James, Dinah Washington, Thelonious Monk, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Tupac, Janelle Monae, Duke Ellington, Marvin Gaye, Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson, Kanye are all geniuses beyond compare, and I’m forgetting many. They molded modern music.

          2. I agree with you wholeheartedly! Thank goodness that at least the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has done its part in recognizing many of the musicians you named above (it almost reads like a Who’s Who of Black musicians in The RRHOF ). People like Kanye will eventually get in (he’s eligible in six years).

Your thoughts?