Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin
(March 25, 1942 – August 16, 2018)



Aretha Franklin, whose exceptionally expressive singing about joy and pain and faith and liberation earned the Detroit diva a permanent and undisputed title — the “Queen of Soul” — died Aug. 16 at her home in Detroit. She was 76.

Gwendolyn Quinn, Aretha Franklin’s representative, announced the death and said the cause was pancreatic cancer.

One of the most celebrated and influential singers in the history of American popular music, Aretha Franklin secured lasting fame in the late 1960s and early 1970s by exploring the secular sweet spot between sultry rhythm and blues and the explosive gospel music she’d grown up singing in her pastor father’s Baptist church.

The result was potent and wildly popular, with defining soul anthems that turned Aretha Franklin into a symbol of black pride and women’s liberation.

Her calling card: “Respect,” the Otis Redding hit that became a crossover smash in 1967 after Aretha Franklin tweaked it just so (a “sock it to me” here, some sisterly vocal support there), transforming the tune into a fervent feminist anthem.

“Whenever women heard the record, it was like a tidal wave of sororal unity,” the song’s producer, Jerry Wexler, said two decades after Aretha Franklin first declared, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.”

Twenty of Aretha Franklin’s singles topped Billboard’s R&B chart and more than 50 reached the R&B Top 10 over a six-decade recording career. She earned volumes of praise for her innovative and emotive vocal performances, even when the material didn’t quite measure up to her talents.

A graceful mezzo-soprano stylist, Franklin had remarkable range, power and command, along with the innate ability to burrow into a lyric until she’d found the exact coordinates of its emotional core.

“She just bared her soul, she exposed herself, she did everything but get on the floor and scream and cry,” singer Natalie Cole told VH1. “She just had that special something that people respond to.”

“I don’t know anybody that can sing a song like Aretha Franklin,” Ray Charles once declared. “Nobody. Period.”

She was at once a brilliant technician and a master emoter, a devastating combination that was unleashed on hits ranging from the swaggering “Chain of Fools” and the cooing “Baby, I Love You” to the pleading “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” and the fiery, ­finger-wagging, “Freedom!”-chanting “Think,” another of Aretha Franklin’s feminist anthems that gave unprecedented voice to black women in particular.

In Aretha Franklin’s music, the politics were mostly personal, even when she sang about being “Young, Gifted and Black.” But through the profundity and ubiquity of her songs, she became the multi-octave voice of the civil rights movement, performing at rallies staged by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a family friend — and, later, at King’s funeral.

As one measure of her influence, comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory observed of Aretha Franklin’s radio presence: “You’d hear Aretha three or four times an hour. You’d only hear King on the news.”

Putting 'everything into it'
She sang gospel truths that resonated across age groups, but it was grown-up music, reflecting an adult sense of self-awareness and sexual maturity and full of hard realities, to which she seemed to relate.

“If a song’s about something I’ve experienced or that could’ve happened to me, it’s good,” she told biographer Mark Bego. “But if it’s alien to me, I couldn’t lend anything to it. .?.?. I look for something meaningful. When I go into the studio, I put everything into it. Even the kitchen sink.”

In 1968, at the apogee of her career when she was in her mid-20s and recording soul classic after soul classic on Atlantic Records, Franklin explained: “Soul to me is a feeling, a lot of depth and being able to bring to the surface that which is happening inside, to make the picture clear. Many people can have soul. It’s just the emotion and the way it affects people.”

Long before she abruptly and mysteriously canceled a half-year’s worth of performances and appearances in November 2010 (doctor’s orders were cited, but no details about her ailments were offered), Franklin’s health had been a source of concern, mostly because of the considerable weight she was carrying.

When she resurfaced in 2011 for a brief concert tour, just months after announcing that she was undergoing an unspecified surgical procedure, Franklin told AARP magazine that she had shed 85 pounds. She attributed the change to diet and exercise and steadfastly denied that she’d had gastric-bypass surgery — and also that she’d had pancreatic cancer. Franklin did not divulge additional details.

If she was concerned with body image before the weight loss, it didn’t show. Sometimes, she would wear tube tops and leotards onstage, as if to flaunt her girth. In her later years, she favored strapless gowns and was known to slap her ample backside during her infrequent concerts.

She was more prim and proper in 2009, when she sang “My Country ’Tis of Thee” at President Barack Obama’s inauguration, although she did turn heads by wearing a custom-made church-lady hat that featured a giant, angled bow ringed with Swarovski crystals. (Franklin had a favorite milliner and even a preferred furrier. She also traveled with a valet who would carry the singer’s designer purse on and off the stage at her concerts.)

Franklin’s career could be divided neatly into two parts: the Atlantic Records years in the late 1960s and 1970s, and everything else, with some periods more fallow than others.

Before she became a soul-singing superstar, Aretha Louise Franklin was a young pop-jazz singer struggling to find her voice on Columbia Records.

Even before that, she was a precocious gospel singer who took solos at her father’s Detroit church, New Bethel Baptist, and occasionally toured with the charismatic minister.

She was born March 25, 1942, in Memphis but moved to Buffalo, then Detroit, at a young age when her father changed pulpits. A rock star among preachers, C.L. Franklin was known as “the man with the million-dollar voice.” His sermons, often delivered beneath a neon-blue crucifix, were broadcast on the radio and released on vinyl by Chess Records.

Aretha’s mother, Barbara Siggers, was called one of the top gospel singers in the country by Mahalia Jackson, a family friend and gospel great. Siggers never pursued a career in music beyond performing in church, but Jackson encouraged Aretha to sing. So, too, did Clara Ward, another gospel legend who visited the Franklin home regularly.

The Franklins often had celebrity company (jazz pianist Art Tatum and singer Sam Cooke were frequent guests), and Aretha became a minor sensation herself. But her childhood was rocky.

Her parents separated when she was 6, and her mother moved back to Buffalo — although Franklin, in her autobiography, “Aretha: From These Roots,” disputed the widely repeated story that she and her siblings had been abandoned.

“In no way, shape, form or fashion did our mother desert us,” she said, calling the story “an absolute lie.” They communicated by phone, and there were regular visits, too. “She was extremely responsible, loving and caring.”

Still, according to biographers, family friends always swore that the upheaval deeply affected Franklin, who had been a confident and outgoing child but became introverted and insecure after her mother moved away.

Then, when Franklin was 10, her mother died after a heart attack. “The pain of small children losing their mother defies description,” She said in “From These Roots.” Jackson, the gospel singer and family friend, would say that “after her mama died, the whole family wanted for love.”

Aretha Franklin continued to sing in church and signed a deal with Checker Records. In 1956, at the age of 14, she released her first album, a collection of hymns and spirituals recorded during services at New Bethel Baptist.

Her burgeoning career — she was also a gifted pianist — was placed on hold when Aretha Franklin twice became pregnant as a teenager and dropped out of school. She had two sons by the time she was 17. (The father — or fathers — has never been identified, leading to wild speculation.)

When Aretha Franklin returned to music, she shifted her attention to secular songs, with her father’s blessings — and guidance.

Her father advised his daughter against signing a contract with the local start-up that would eventually come to produce the sound of young America. And so Motown, which was scooping up talent all around the neighborhood, with everybody from Diana Ross to Smokey Robinson, missed out on Aretha Franklin.

“The studio was only a few blocks from where my dad’s home was, where we lived,” Aretha Franklin told The Washington Post in 2008. But “it was still a fledgling label. And my father wanted me to go to Columbia Records because of the national and international distribution he knew they had.”

Still just a teenager, she signed with Columbia in 1960 after the famed talent scout John Hammond became convinced he had found the greatest voice since Billie Holiday. Aretha Franklin spent six years at the label and recorded a series of jazz and pop albums that produced some minor hits but never really caught on.

Some of Aretha Franklin’s associates blamed her confrontational husband-manager, Ted White, whom she married in 1961. Hammond lamented that “Columbia was a white company who mis­understood her genius.”

Still, Aretha Franklin told The Post in 2008 that her Columbia years were “wonderful” and boasted that her early ’60s recordings won some critical acclaim. “Artistically, it was great music,” she said. “But it wasn’t commercial.”

“I was not an overnight sensation by any means,” she told Jet magazine.

Breakthrough at Atlantic
When Jerry Wexler came calling on behalf of Atlantic Records in 1966, everything changed.

“He provided the vehicle to allow me to perform and express myself,” Aretha Franklin told the Wall Street Journal. In his autobiography, “Rhythm and the Blues,” Wexler said: “I had no lofty notions of correcting Columbia’s mistakes. My idea was to make good tracks, use the best players, put Aretha back on piano and let the lady wail.”

For her first Atlantic session, Aretha Franklin traveled to FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala., to record a smoldering blues ballad with an all-white group of studio musicians known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. The song, “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You),” written for ArethaFranklin by Ronnie Shannon, detailed a woman’s devotion to a no-good man.

The session wasn’t without drama, as White got into a fistfight with one of the musicians before a B-side could be cut. But Aretha Franklin had already knocked it cold.

Playing piano as well as the addicted victim of love (“Don’t you never, never say we’re through!” she wailed), she struck gold: “I Never Loved a Man” became her first No. 1 R&B hit, cracked the Top 10 of the crossover pop chart and put the world on notice that a major talent had at last been unleashed.

If there was a major award to be won or honor to be received, chances are that Aretha Franklin got it: the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Grammy’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Medal of Arts, the Kennedy Center Honors. In 1987, she became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

She won 18 Grammy Awards for her recordings, many of them in a category created in 1968 seemingly to acknowledge her singular greatness: Best female R&B vocal, an award won by Aretha Franklin — and nobody but — the first eight times it was given.

Ever since, just about every powerhouse songstress worth her weight in sequins — from Mariah Carey and Jennifer Hudson to Annie Lennox and Whitney Houston — has been measured against Aretha Franklin.

Her muscular, melismatic style, in which she warped and bent single syllables by moving up and down the scale, has been perpetuated on “American Idol” by singers desperately seeking the emotional pitch of her most famous work.

When Rolling Stone ranked Aretha Franklin as the greatest singer of the rock-and-roll era, another of her acolytes, Mary J. Blige, declared, “She is the reason why women want to sing.”

A turbulent life
Aretha Franklin had plenty of success in her professional life, but her personal life was filled with turbulence. She and White divorced in 1969, in the midst of her historic run at Atlantic. Her second marriage, to actor Glynn Turman, also ended in divorce.

Survivors include two sons from early relationships, Clarence and Edward Franklin; a son from her first marriage, Ted White Jr.; another son, KeCalf Franklin, from a relationship with her road manager, Ken Cunningham; and four grandchildren.

Her personal life occasionally seemed to unfold like a 12-bar blues — the dark and gloomy kind. In 1979, her father was shot in his home by a burglar; he was comatose for five years before dying in 1984. In September 2010, the second of her four sons, Edward Franklin, was severely beaten at a gas station.

“I call her ‘the Lady of Mysterious Sorrow’ because that sadness seems to be her underlying condition,” Wexler told “60 Minutes” in 1989. “I say it’s mysterious because you can’t identify what may be causing it on any given day. It’s probably an accumulation of a lifetime of bad breaks, disappointments and just plain unpleasant experiences.”

Aretha Franklin may have brought some of those unpleasant experiences on herself, according to the co-author of her 1999 autobiography, David Ritz, who published an unvarnished (and unauthorized) biography of the singer in 2014. Ritz highlighted her struggles with alcohol and depression and her highhanded, intimidating manner toward agents, musicians and even members of her family.

According to Ritz, Franklin was dismissive of other singers and occasionally blocked her sisters’ attempts at singing careers. When she recorded a gospel album with Mavis Staples, she reportedly had Staples’s voice turned low in the studio mix.

In another instance, Ritz wrote that Aretha Franklin considered suing the group Steely Dan over the 1980 song “Hey Nineteen,” with its reference to a teenager so young “she don’t remember the Queen of Soul.”

She was known to cancel concerts or recording sessions without notice and for years refused to travel by airplane, severely limiting her public performances. Yet, despite — or because of — her diva tendencies, Aretha Franklin remained an object of curiosity, if not outright adoration, and her devoted audience never abandoned her.

She continued to make new recordings and to appear at high-profile events, sometimes reaching beyond the soul songs that made her a star to embrace other genres. Her 1972 live gospel album, “Amazing Grace,” was a bestseller, and she explored other idioms, from disco to pop and even classical. At the 1998 Grammy Awards, Aretha Franklin performed a Puccini aria, “Nessun Dorma,” as a last-minute stand-in for an ailing Luciano Pavarotti. Writing in the New York Times, music critic Jon Pareles said she gave a “gutsy, triumphal performance.”

Franklin’s relationship with Atlantic ended at the end of the 1970s, after a string of disappointing releases, which the Rolling Stone Album Guide later described as “bland, sometimes disco­fied albums in which she often sounded bored or exhausted.” She signed with Arista Records around the time of her showstopping turn in “The Blues Brothers,” the 1980 movie in which she sang her classic “Think.”

Under the direction of Arista chief Clive Davis, Aretha Franklin’s career rebounded, with pop-rock hits that included “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” and “Freeway of Love.”

During the second half of her career, Aretha Franklin toured intermittently, hampered by a fear of flying that she developed in 1982 after a turbulent flight from Atlanta to Detroit.

Even though her hits slowed, Franklin was no museum piece in the latter stages of her career. She was a force of nature onstage, and she won three Grammys in the new millennium — the final one in 2008, when she and Blige were awarded the Grammy for best gospel performance for “Never Gonna Break My Faith.”

Accurately, if immodestly, Aretha Franklin accepted the regal moniker “the Queen of Soul.”

“It’s an acknowledgment of my art,” she once said. “It means I am excelling at my art and my first love. And I am most appreciative.”



Aretha Franklin
2011
Take A Look: Aretha Franklin Complete On Columbia


Were we to limit our musical intelligence gathering to banal "classic rock" radio, we would believe that singer Aretha Franklin's career began in 1967, that she only recorded one song, Otis Redding's "Respect," and recorded for a single label, Atlantic. All these assumptions are light years from accurate as evidenced by Take a Look: Aretha Franklin Complete on Columbia. At Columbia, Franklin lived an entirely different musical life than she would at Atlantic, one that was grounded in jazz and the Great American Songbook, revealing a gigantic vocal talent that betrayed potent hints of the tectonic soul shift to come at Atlantic. 
It takes precious little imagination to conclude that Franklin was as important to American music in the middle-to-late 1960s as singer/pianist Ray Charles was the decade before, the two star ascents crossing in creative eclipse. Franklin gave potent voice to women in the soul and rock arenas, enabling the flourishing of the Tina Turner, Janet Jackson and Jennifer Hudson generations. Her parallel to Charles is not incidental, sharing the visions of Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun, the operators of the Atlantic musical collider that mashed up gospel and the blues, creating r&b and soul. 

But Franklin had a hefty musical career before she was crowned the "Queen of Soul" by an un-named MC in 1965. Before Atlantic Records, Muscle Shoals, Wexler and the Ertegun Brothers, there was Uber-AR man John Hammond and five productive years at Columbia Records. Hammond, whose musical influence spanned the center of the 20th century, touching the work of artists from Robert Johnson to Stevie Ray Vaughan, brought Franklin to Columbia with the intention of continuing the label's success in jazz vocals experienced with Billie Holiday. Franklin's Columbia output can in 2011 be considered a sublime failure when compared to her Atlantic material. It was excellent music resulting from misapplied direction. Hammond admitted that the label failed to recognise and exploit Franklin's gospel roots in her secular output. A mistake the Atlantic crew took full advantage of later. 

However, the result of Franklin's association with Columbia did yield a creatively and quantitatively rich catalog, showing Franklin as a fully developed and accomplished performer when she came to New York City from her father, Rev. L.C. Franklin's Detroit Baptist Church. Her Columbia material included seven original LPs, each expanded here with alternate mixes, making up the roast beef of the set. The gravy comes with the previously unreleased or differently released material, including Franklin collaborations with producers Bobby Scott and Clyde Otis yielding Tiny Sparrow: The Bobby Scott Sessions (1963) and Take A Look: The Clyde Otis Sessions (1964), material either never released or released only as singles. 

Two previously unreleased recordings are heard in A Bit of Soul and The Queen in Waiting, both which were assembled but ultimately never released commercially. The latter collection is made up of Franklin's last recordings for Columbia, produced by Bob Johnson and overdubbed after Franklin left the label. Finally, a DVD, Aretha '64! Live on The Steve Allen Show is included from a television appearance Franklin had made, singing and playing piano during the period of these Columbia recordings. 

Aretha With the Ray Bryant Combo (Columbia, 1961) represents Franklin's first, almost seamless step from the sacred to secular. It is inspired because the obviously soulful Franklin melded well with the equally organic and soulful pianist Ray Bryant. It is not clear if John Hammond (or Columbia) recognised this from the beginning or the combination was fortuitous. The two have a well-developed blues sensibility guiding these recordings. "Over The Rainbow" and "It Ain't Necessarily So" prove fine vocal vehicles precisely because of the simpatico shared between Franklin and Bryant. This is Billie Holiday without the fragile temperament. The only other pianist that could have provided this support for Franklin would have been Gene Harris. This stripped-down environment properly flatters Franklin, who later would be coupled with big band and string arrangements that, that, while they have their charms, tend to cloud the sheer power of Franklin's vocal ability. 

The Electrifying Aretha Franklin (1962) presented the artist as torch singer/chanteuse (albeit a very earthy one), fully orchestrated with strings and orchestra. Her singing is excellent always, even if the setting is not. This is possibly because any discussion of this material must be made retrospectively, through a lens dominated by Franklin's Atlantic material. Nevertheless, from a prospective narrative point of view, Franklin was emerging as a major talent who was just missing the mark to make her stand out as a unique and innovative talent. 

Columbia Records (and CBS Television) musical director Robert Mersey provided direction for Franklin's next recording, The Tender, The Moving, The Swinging Aretha Franklin (1962). He turned up the strings and pop repertoire, turned down the big band, introducing Franklin to the Billie Holiday catalog ("God Bless The Child") as well as guiding Franklin's recording of "Try a Little Tenderness" (provided here as the master take and a mono mix) four years prior to Otis Redding's definitive spin. Franklin would return the favor to Redding by transforming his "Respect" five years later. 

Mersey remained in tow for Laughing On The Outside (1963), continuing the formula developed for The Tender, The Moving, The Swinging Aretha Franklin. Plush strings and background vocals provide to soft a cushion for Franklin. While well intentioned, production was still missing the mark with Franklin. On the positive side, these two Mersey-directed recordings introduced Franklin to the material that would eventually help complete her evolution into the "Queen of Soul." From this standard material came a glimpse of the promised land, that direction that would fully reveal Franklin later in Muscle Shoals. Just listen to Franklin turn "In My Solitude" and "Where Are You" on their ears. 

Franklin next joined producer/arranger Bobby Scott for the unreleased Tiny Sparrow: The Bobby Scott Sessions. Scott encouraged Franklin to pursue greater emotional depth in her material, suggesting Billy Strayhorn's "My Little Brown Book." Franklin's gospel abandon begins to unhinge on pieces like "Please Answer Me" and "I Won't Cry Anymore." "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home" is an interesting item for Franklin to cover and she does so as only she could, swinging hard, but it remains an example of a "near hit" stylistically. 

Robert Mersey re-enters the picture for the critically and artistically successful Unforgettable: A Tribute to Dinah Washington (1964). Franklin had been profoundly influenced by the big sound and broad repertoire of Dinah Washington. The match with material was the most successful since Franklin's work with Ray Bryant. A comparison of Franklin's cover of the title tune with contemporary treatments shows Franklin's singing evolving toward the unbridled power and intensity that would characterize her later work. This is singing con brio. The organ- infused "Nobody Knows How I Feel This Morning" inches closer to the ideal created by Ray Charles a decade earlier. Blues-oriented, Unforgettable gives the best idea of where Franklin is going. This release was followed by Runnin' Out of Fools (1964), where Franklin employed yet more pop material like a misread "Mockingbird" and a sultry "Walk on By," music very characteristic of AM radio of the period. 

The present box set's title is based on Take A Look: The Clyde Otis Sessions (1967) released after Franklin had left Columbia and Atlantic had released the highly successful and influential I've Never Loved a Man the Way That I Love You (1967). Producer Clyde Otis pointed Franklin deeper into pop music, often with just a rhythm section and background vocals, something similar to what she would use at Muscle Shoals. Franklin proves more effective on the blues related material while being perfectly serviceable on the pop confections ("Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart"). It is not so much that Franklin's efforts are wasted as misused. She remains just short of her creative bulls-eye. 

Franklin's association with Otis resulted in a large amount of material (some resulting in 1969's Soft and Beautiful), much released only as singles, assembled here as A Little Bit of Soul. This material shows Franklin fixed in the pop idiom, a titanic talent almost reaching its potential, but veering off course a bit. Franklin concluded her recording association with Otis with with the live recording Yeah!!! In Person With Her Quartet (1965). The mood is upbeat and the band swinging. Franklin demonstrated that she had both the depth and breadth to cover material like "Trouble in Mind" or "Muddy Water" and "Misty" in almost the same breath. 

The pentultimate disc of the set, entitled The Queen in Waiting, is an overview of monaural mixes and previously unreleased recordings. 

The final disc is a DVD of Franklin appearing on the Steve Allen show in 1964. This ties up Franklin's association with Columbia Records nicely, providing a taut and integrated history of the artist on the edge of super-stardom and musical innovation. 

It can be contended that what Franklin needed to launch her otherwise already considerable talent into super-stardom was a return home to the American South to record in the funky confines of Memphis and Muscle Shoals. Or, maybe the time was just right, the cultural collision of the 1960s: The Civil Rights Act, Black Power, Vietnam, Medgar Evers, MLK, RFK. Or, most likely, a combination of the two. At any rate, Franklin's Columbia work represents a near hit, a story of almost hitting the mark. These sides are by no means failures. They represent a rapidly matured and self- assured artist in the woodshed, before emerging to rule her soul kingdom, providing hope and light for all. 

1961
Aretha (With The Ray Bryant Combo)


01. Won't Be Long
02. Over The Rainbow
03. Love Is The Only Thing
04. Sweet Lover
05. All Night Long
06. Who Needs You?
07. Right Now
08. Are You Sure
09. Maybe I'm A Fool
10. It Ain't Necessarily So
11. By Myself
12. Today I Sing The Blues
13. Are You Sure (Rehearsal)
14. Who Needs You? (Take 9)
15. Right Now (Take 1)
16. Maybe I'm A Fool (Take 4)
17. By Myself (Mono Mix)
18. Won't Be Long (Mono Mix)
19. All Night Long (Mono Mix)
20. Love Is The Only Thing (Mono Mix)
21. Right Now (Mono Mix)
22. Today I Sing The Blues (Mono Mix)

These slow, jazzy numbers aren't where Aretha is best, but some of them can be potentially enjoyable and interesting to those who want to know the beginnings of this legendary singer's career, as well as how her music evolved. I'm not very informed or knowledgeable on vocal jazz to really say how well Aretha stands here in comparison to artists like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, but I think it's kind of clear that this was not the lane for her to take. There seems to be a restriction put on her vocals, not letting her really sore to heights fans would come to love her for. Otherwise, not bad stuff necessarily, just not memorable or notable in anyway.

1962
The Electrifying Aretha Franklin


01. You Made Me Love You
02. I Told You So
03. Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody
04. Nobody Like You
05. Exactly Like You
06. It's So Heartbreakin'
07. Rough Lover
08. Blue Holiday
09. Just For You
10. That Lucky Old Sun
11. I Surrender, Dear
12. Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive
13. Introduction To Hard Times
14. Hard Times (No One Knows Better Than I)
15. When They Ask About You
16. Operation Heartbreak
17. I Surrender, Dear (Mono Mix)
18. Rough Lover (Mono Mix)
19. Kissin' By The Mistletoe (Mono Mix)

In an effort to appeal to a broader audience (a la Ray Charles), Aretha is again set to sing boring pop standards of the day, restricting her gifted vocal talents and making for an sometimes uncomfortable, yet nearly always forgettable record. There are brief moments of Aretha's wonderful ability here to be enjoyed (like on the song "Nobody Like You"), but that's what they are - brief.


1962
The Tender, The Moving, The Swinging Aretha Franklin


01. Don't Cry Baby
02. Try A Little Tenderness
03. I Apologize
04. Without The One You Love
05. Look For The Silver Lining
06. I'm Sitting On Top Of The World
07. Just For A Thrill
08. God Bless The Child
09. I'm Wandering
10. How Deep Is The Ocean
11. I Don't Know You Anymore
12. Lover Come Back To Me
13. Trouble In Mind (Mono Mix)
14. Without The One You Love (Mono Mix)
15. Don't Cry, Baby (Mono Mix)
16. I'm Wandering (Mono Mix)
17. Try A Little Tenderness (Mono Mix)
18. I Apologize (Mono Mix)
19. Lover Come Back To Me (Mono Mix)
20. I Don't Know You Anymore (Mono Mix)

Though I feel Columbia finally gave Aretha a little more leeway to further boost her vocal talents here, the songs are really dull and tiresome with the whole overdone string arrangements and such. There's a reason this album wasn't successful.


1963
Laughing On The Outside


01. Skylark
02. For All We Know
03. Make Someone Happy
04. I Wonder (Where Are You Tonight)
05. Solitude
06. Laughing On The Outside
07. Say It Isn't So
08. Until The Real Thing Comes Along
09. If Ever I Would Leave You
10. Where Are You?
11. Mr. Ugly
12. I Wanna Be Around
13. Ol' Man River
14. You've Got Her (Mono Mix)
15. Here's Where I Came In (Here's Where I Walk Out) (Mono Mix)
16. Say It Isn't So (Mono Mix)

Yet another miss at crossover stardom by Aretha's Columbia backers. And yet again taking it down a notch in the speed of things, we're offered a striking similarly paced collection of tunes, a good deal of them standards (pop & jazz alike), all with overblown string-laden production, which all pretty much blend together for the most part, none standing out more than the next.


1963
Tiny Sparrow: The Bobby Scott Sessions


01. Here Today And Gone Tomorrow
02. Please Answer Me
03. Harbor Lights
04. I May Never Get To Heaven
05. Moon River
06. I Won't Cry Anymore
07. Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home
08. My Little Brown Book
09. Tiny Sparrow
10. Johnny
11. Looking Through A Tear
12. Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home (Mono Mix)
13. Johnny (Mono Mix)


1964
Unforgettable: A Tribute To Dinah Washington


01. Unforgettable
02. Cold, Cold Heart
03. What A Diff'rence A Day Made
04. Drinking Again
05. Nobody Knows The Way I Feel This Morning
06. Evil Gal Blues
07. Don't Say You're Sorry Again
08. This Bitter Earth
09. If I Should Lose You
10. Soulville
11. Lee Cross (Mono Mix)

Aretha's tribute to 'The Queen of Blues'. She surely has her own true style, approaching such classics as 'Unforgettable' or 'What a Diff'rence a Day Made'. 
There's a lot of natural soul in her voice, sometimes her energetic voice bursts out of her with such an impressive fervency, you can imagine why this 21-year old Lady would become 'The Queen of Soul'. An other characteristic of her voice, the gospel influenced background, also can be heard clearly on some tracks of this album. An pleasure listening to her performances and an felicitous tribute to the immortal Dinah Washington!!!


1964
Take A Look: The Clyde Otis Sessions


01. I'll Keep On Smiling
02. Shangri-La
03. Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart
04. People
05. A Mother's Love
06. Friendly Persuasion (Thee I Love)
07. But Beautiful
08. That's Entertainment
09. Take A Look
10. (Ah, The Apple Trees) When The World Was Young
11. Jim
12. Sweet Bitter Love
13. Only The Lonely
14. My Coloring Book
15. I Wish I Didn't Love You So
16. People (Mono Mix)
17. A Mother's Love (Mono Mix)

1964
Runnin' Out Of Fools


01. Mockingbird
02. How Glad I Am
03. Walk On By
04. Every Little Bit Hurts
05. The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss)
06. You'll Lose A Good Thing
07. I Can't Wait Until I See My Baby's Face
08. It's Just A Matter Of Time
09. Runnin' Out Of Fools
10. My Guy
11. Two Sides Of Love
12. One Room Paradise
13. A General Market Advertisement From Columbia Records
14. A Special Ad For Christmas
15. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire) (Mono Mix)
16. Winter Wonderland (Mono Mix)

About half of the songs on Runnin' Out of Fools were made famous by other singers.  There's nothing all that unusual about that, some of Aretha's biggest hits were recordings of songs that had already been recorded by other artists.  It wasn't unusual in the 50s and 60s to see multiple versions of the same song on the pop charts.  It makes direct comparison easy, and for Aretha that's generally a good thing, because there aren't many (any?) pop singers that can keep up with her. 

Aretha takes ownership of "Mockingbird" and "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)".  Mary Wells sang an incredible version of "My Guy" and the song will always be hers, but by adding a pinch of desire to the mix Aretha concocts a rendition that is all her own. 

The only songs that Aretha fails to top or match the originals are "You'll Lose a Good Thing" and "Walk on By".  Aretha's recording of "You'll Lose a Good Thing" is more soulful than Barbara Lynn's original version, and she can sing Lynn under the table, but Lynn's version is a much more well-crafted pop arrangement that gets to the heart of the song better than Aretha's.  As far as "Walk on By" goes, well, the fact is that Burt Bacharach songs are tough to sing and they simply can't be powered through.  Nobody could sing a Bacharach song as well as Dionne Warwick.  Aretha does a decent job, and in fact handles the song better than most singers could have managed, but she lacks the sophistication to trump Dionne. 

All in all, there's nothing spectacular about Runnin' Out of Fools.  It's just a solid, well produced record that never stumbles and leaves you wanting more.


1965
A Bit Of Soul


01. Follow Your Heart
02. Only The One You Love
03. One Step Ahead
04. Can't You Just See Me
05. How To Murder Your Wife
06. A Little Bit Of Soul
07. Cry Like A Baby
08. Her Little Heart Went To Loveland
09. Remember Me
10. Land Of Dreams
11. Little Miss Raggedy Ann
12. Deeper
13. I Still Can't Forget
14. Rose Of Washington Square
15. Take It Like You Give It (Mono Mix)
16. Follow Your Heart (Mono Mix)
17. Only The One You Love (Mono Mix)
18. One Step Ahead (Mono Mix)
19. How To Murder Your Wife (Mono Mix)
20. A Little Bit Of Soul (Mono Mix)
21. Cry Like A Baby (Mono Mix)
22. Her Little Heart Went To Loveland (Mono Mix)

A previously unreleased 1965 album from the great Aretha Franklin, first issued in 2011 as part of a three-vinyl package, The Electrifying Aretha Franklin, and 9CD box set, Take A Look: Aretha Franklin Complete On Columbia. The pre-Atlantic Aretha – signed to Columbia by John Hammond – turned out to be a tough sell to the masses, as Franklin was, first and foremost, a piano playing gospel singer. The label’s attempts to channel her immense talents into more pop-oriented commercial surrounds were artistically successful (since Aretha could do anything) but, as history would later inform us, the “Queen Of Soul” didn’t fully hit her sales stride until the late 60s on Atlantic. So this previously unissued album, recorded, sequenced, matrixed and ready to go as the follow-up to 1964’s Runnin’ Out Of Fools, is a mixed bag of lush, string-driven “pop” and a “bit” of smoldering soul. Ashford & Simpson are involved in two of the set’s more soulful numbers (“Cry Like A Baby” and “Take It Like You Give It”). But one listen to that soaring, crystalline voice, in any musical context, makes it obvious why both Columbia and Atlantic saw the same potential in Franklin… just waiting to be tapped. The original 11 track LP is bolstered by 3 bonus tracks and 8 mono mixes (and an outtake), and will probably send you scurrying for more of the early work you probably were never exposed to back in the day.


1965
Yeah!!!


01. This Could Be The Start Of Something (Live)
02. Once In A Lifetime (Live)
03. Misty (Live)
04. More (Live)
05. There Is No Greater Love (Live)
06. Muddy Water (Live)
07. If I Had A Hammer (Live)
08. Impossible (Live)
09. Today I Love Ev'rybody (Live)
10. Without The One You Love (Live)
11. Trouble In Mind (Live)
12. Love For Sale (Live)
13. Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home
14. Misty
15. Love For Sale
16. Once In A Lifetime
17. Today I Love Ev'rybody
18. Impossible
19. This Could Be The Start Of Something
20. More
21. There Is More Greater Love
22. If I Had A Hammer
23. Muddy Water
24. Without The One You Love
25. Trouble In Mind

For all the talk about later legendary Atlantic years that would catapult her in the long deserved spotlight and make her a part of R&B aristocracy, Aretha Franklin had very interesting apprenticeship with mighty Columbia Records and these albums definitely deserve reassessment, since she was given fair chance to shine and show off that glorious voice. The fact that years from 1961 to 1966 produced no hits could be perhaps not be entirely blamed on Columbia Records as they were very successful with other music acts, it might be that Franklin simply had to wait for the right time and soul explosion that eventually shifted her focus from Broadway standards to more current sounds.

From the whole bunch of Columbia Records albums, this fake-live jazz album is still my favourite - released in 1965. as Yeah!!! it has confident, young Franklin leading small combo trough the dozen of standards where her gospel roots are clearly audible. Everything she later became renown for is already here in place: soaring vocals, improvisations, authoritative piano playing, you name it - far from being Jerry Wexler creation, this young lady was dazzling from the start and if this album came decade earlier it could have been sensation. However, in 1965. the album of jazz standards was nothing new and when you think that biggest stars of the year were The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Animals, Sonny & Cher, Bob Dylan, The Lovin' Spoonful and the whole arsenal of "Motown" musicians, the idea of late-night jazz combo tearing trough "Misty" or "Love For Sale" might have missed the zeitgeist of time, no matter how brilliant Franklin was. 

Just a year before, Franklin released her affectionate tribute to Dinah Washington and it seems this is where her heart was at the time. Or this is what her husband/manager thought she should do to crack fancy supper clubs market, like Sam Cooke did with his triumphs in New York's Copacabana Club which was the ultimate goal of music entertainers at the time. On purely musical merit, the album is still exciting (fake audience and all) and its a joy to hear what young soul sister does with this material (she even includes swinging version of "If I Had A Hammer"). It is not completely true that these early years were fruitless, since other musicians paid attention - Dusty Springfield even covered "Won't Be Long" from Franklin's very first LP, so people knew about her, it was just a matter of time when wide audiences will become aware of this unique talent. Personally, this was the very first Franklin album I have ever owned (it was finally released in my country in 1983.) so it gave me somehow distorted impression of who this lady was, because it represented her in jazz light but  she never left it completely behind - in subsequent decades Franklin would often revisit jazz standards.


1965-1968
The Queen In Waiting


01. Tighten Up Your Tie, Button Up Your Jacket (Make It For The Door) (Mono Mix)
02. (No, No) I'm Losing You
03. Why Was I Born?
04. Hands Off (Mono Mix)
05. Swanee
06. You Made Me Love You
07. Until You Were Gone (Mono Mix)
08. Mockingbird
09. Can't You Just See Me
10. Today I Sing The Blues
11. Walk On By
12. One Room Paradise
13. Every Little Bit Hurts
14. Evil Gal Blues
15. Rough Lover
16. Trouble In Mind
17. Without The One You Love
18. Won't Be Long
19. Take A Look
20. Runnin' Out Of Fools
21. Skylark

"I know, and they (Columbia Records) know that I know, that I never recieved the same push they gave to Barbra Streisand"
So.. How do you Like it?


1964
Aretha '64!: Live On The Steve Allen Show


01. Lover Come Back To Me
02. Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody
03. Won't Be Long
04. Skylark
05. Evil Gal Blues



Aretha Franklin
2018
The Atlantic Albums Collection



Although it's now almost fifty years since Aretha Franklin was, by popular consent, crowned the 'Queen of Soul' – a coronation inaugurated by a string of potent, soul-stirring chart smashes for Atlantic Records in the second half of the '60s – no one has come near to claiming her crown. There have been plenty of pretenders over the years, of course, who have aspired to usurp Aretha's title and steal her throne but in truth none could touch or even match her. That's because when it comes to singing, Aretha Franklin is in a world and category of her own. Her voice, with its distinctive timbre, multi-octave range and powerful, gospel-infused cadences is an irresistible force of nature – indeed, the passion and depth of feeling she communicates can sometimes be overwhelming, such is its soulful majesty and cathartic intensity. Not only that but she also possesses that rare and special gift of completely inhabiting any song she sings so that it seems to reflect her own personality and life experiences. In fact, she doesn't just sing a song – she lives it and any singer who can do that is undoubtedly worthy of being called unique. It's no surprise, then, that Aretha Franklin's soulful reign continues, even in her 73rd year and despite the fact that she rarely records and performs live these days. So, in celebration of her phenomenal talent, 'The Atlantic Albums Collection' presents her greatest long players for the legendary record label that was co-founded by Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson back in 1947.

Though she released ten albums for Columbia Records between 1960 and 1966 - some of them halfway decent - Aretha couldn't make that all-important crossover breakthrough until she teamed up with savvy Atlantic producer Jerry Wexler, in 1966, who put her in the studio with some great R&B musicians and built all the arrangements around her piano playing. 'I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You' was her eleventh studio LP but might as well as have been her first as it totally reinvented her musically. While Aretha's repertoire at Columbia had focused on a mixture of blues ballads, show tunes and jazz standards, Atlantic found her songs that perfectly married gospel fire with contemporary rhythm and blues grooves. The end result was explosive, chart-busting material, as big hits like 'I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)' and 'Respect' testified. This collection traces Aretha's album career in chronological sequence from her Atlantic launch in1967 to 1974 and includes every LP from that period. Beginning with 'I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You' and ending with 'Let Me In Your Life,' in between you'll find  'Aretha Arrives,' 'Aretha Now,' 'Lady Soul,' 'Aretha In Paris,' 'Soul '69,' 'This Girl's In Love With You,' 'Spirit In The Dark,' 'Live At Fillmore West' (the expanded, remastered 2-disc version), 'Young, Gifted & Black,' a gospel-focused live set called 'Amazing Grace' (the complete 2-CD iteration) and the Quincy Jones-helmed 'Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky).'  After this, the set jumps to 1976's soundtrack set, the Curtis Mayfield-produced 'Sparkle' (missing out the albums 'With Everything I Feel In Me' and 'You'). That's the final studio album in the set and a superlative 2007 2-CD compilation of outtakes and demos - 'Rare & Unreleased Recordings From The Golden Reign Of The Queen Of Soul' - and an archival live collection released the same year, 'Oh Me Oh My: Aretha Live In Philly 1972,' complete this collection.

Some Aretha fans will certainly feel that the perfect opportunity to present her entire Atlantic output has been missed here - though, conversely, there are those who will say that omitting her five weakest albums (including her final three late-'70s LPs for the label, 'Sweet Passion,' 'Almighty Fire,' and the disco-oriented 'La Diva') is no big deal as they were all turkeys and were symptomatic of an artist in creative decline. Whatever your viewpoint, what is certain is that the music on this 19-CD collection represents some of the most important soul music ever recorded. Pedantic purists will bemoan the conspicuous absence of annotation and liner notes but in truth, words are redundant because it's the music that really matters here. At its best it is timeless, awe-inspiring and shows soul music reaching its absolute zenith as an art form. The set will cost you around £50 or so in the UK but in all honesty it's a truly priceless collection: the undoubted crown jewels of the Queen of Soul's reign.

1967
I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You


01. Respect
02. Drown In My Own Tears
03. I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)
04. Soul Serenade
05. Don't Let Me Lose This Dream
06. Baby, Baby, Baby
07. Dr. Feelgood (Love Is Serious Business)
08. Good Times 2:10
09. Do Right Woman, Do Right Man
10. Save Me
11. A Change Is Gonna Come
12. Respect (Stereo Version)
13. I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) (Stereo Version)
14. Do Right Woman, Do Right Man (Stereo Version)

It rarely gets better than this! By 1966, Aretha Franklin had a six-year recording history with Columbia Records. Though she occasionally waxed a number that presaged her Atlantic oeuvre (see "Lee Cross"), Aretha's Columbia sides were all over the place musically. The label seemed not to know what to do with its fledgling star and had her record a little bit of everything to see what might stick. Some of the material worked but far too much of it was ill-suited to the young singer's church-like style. 

But Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records knew just how to play to Aretha's strengths. He signed her up in late 1966 and immediately sent her down south to record. The studio personnel included the always reliable Tom Dowd on engineering duties; back-up vocals by her sisters Erma and Carolyn Franklin, along with Cissy Houston (Whitney's mother); King Curtis on the tenor sax; Tommy Cogbill on bass; and Chips Moman on guitar. 

The Detroit-born Aretha mixed in with those Southern boys like gravy on biscuits. They hit the ground running with "Respect," a two-year-old Otis Redding song that Aretha converted into a feminist anthem to which even a sexist could get up and groove. Next up is a gospelly take on the Ray Charles plaint, "Drown in My Own Tears," that challenges the original for plunging the depths of human despair. Then we come to the album's title track, a heart-wrenching chronicle of destructive, cancerous love that plays out like a distaff answer to the Four Tops' "I Can't Help Myself." On "Dr. Feelgood," Aretha delves into Mississippi Delta blues and emerges victorious over the Devil at the crossroads. The downtempo "Do Right Woman--Do Right Man" is as perfect a song as was ever confined to the B-side of a single. (The A-side was "I Never Loved a Man.") 

On two tracks, Aretha pays tribute to her fallen friend and musical idol, Sam Cooke. She makes his party song, "Good Times," into a hand-clapper that would not be out of place at a Sunday-morning jubilee. And on "A Change is Gonna Come," she uses the man's hopeful, introspective lyrics to create a secular sermon worthy of her father, the Reverend C.L. Franklin. 

Atlantic released "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You" on March 10, 1967. Within weeks, it was at #1 on Billboard magazine's R&B album chart and at #2 on its pop album survey. The title track was a #1 R&B and #9 pop single, while "Respect" was #1 on both charts. Aretha had finally arrived and soul music would never be the same. Can I get an "amen?"


1967
Aretha Arrives


01. Satisfaction
02. You Are My Sunshine
03. Never Let Me Go
04. 96 Tears
05. Prove It
06. Night Life
07. That's Life
08. I Wonder
09. Ain't Nobody (Gonna Turn Me Around)
10. Going Down Slow
11. Baby, I Love You

Of course Aretha actually arrived on her previous album, her first with Atlantic, but who can resist a bit of honest to goodness alliteration. Okay, like many another soul album on Stax or Motown, it's on the face of it a collection of contemporary covers, mixed with older classics and a smattering of new material. And yet it transcends those limitations sublimely thanks to the superb playing of the crack Memphis sessioneers, marvellous vocal support from the Sweet Inspirations but mostly and unsurprisingly due to Aretha's singing. Unlike divas of recent years, there's no nostrils-flaring over-singing here, just totally in-synch phrasing and styling, adapted excellently for each number.

She unflinchingly takes on white-boy garage rock, with great upbeat versions of the Stones "Satisfaction" in a cover that Mick Jagger preferred to Otis Redding's and ? And the Mysterians "96 Tears", even if the lyrics for each don't easily read across to a female perspective. She also takes on with some panache another recent hit by a bad boy from a different generation, Sinatra's over-the-top big-band "That's Life".

The slower numbers are even better as Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd and Arif Mardin sympathetically employ strings in stunning tracks like "Never Let Me Go", "Prove It", "I Wonder" Willie Nelson's "Night Life" and the arresting death-bed lament of "Going Down Slow". There are moments in all these songs where you just want to close your eyes and luxuriate in the pools of sound created.

As ever, her instinctive love of gospel music infuses much of the material here, especially the heavy-duty intro to the old country standard "You Are My Sunshine" and the evangelistic feel of "Ain't Nobody Gonna Turn Me Around" which although a love song could easily be construed as a support for the Civil Rights Movement of the day, which just leaves the rollicking "Baby I Love You" to wrap things up handsomely at the end.

I remember buying this record on vinyl about thirty years ago on and playing it to death so much that I can almost play it straight through in my head from memory. Nevertheless I've loved revisiting it again of late which only confirms it as one my favourite albums of all time.


1968
Lady Soul


01. Chain Of Fools
02. Money Won't Change You
03. People Get Ready
04. Niki Hoeky
05. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
06. Since You've Been Gone (Sweet Sweet Baby)
07. Good To Me As I Am To You
08. Come Back Baby
09. Groovin'
10. Ain't No Way
11. Chain Of Fools (Unedited Version)
12. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman (Mono Single Version)
13. Since You've Been Gone (Sweet Sweet Baby) (Mono Single Version)
14. Ain't No Way (Mono Single Version)

Lady Soul, what an incredible album. One that many name as Aretha Franklin's best in fact. I disagree. See I think, I Never Loved A Man has this beat by the slightest little bit. However, Im totally okay with anyone claiming this as her best as this is still a wonderful record.

Lets state the obvious shall we? 'Chain Of Fools' 'People Get Ready' and 'You Make Me Feel' are all stone cold classics of the highest degree. Simply flawless tracks. Far and away the standouts of Lady Soul. But it doesnt stop there because really everything else on Lady Soul is great just to a slightly lesser degree.

But whats so great about Lady Soul is Aretha. Sounds obvious, right? I mean with this being Aretha Franklin's album and all. But its the confidence she gained here, the power in her voice that always sounded great but never soared as high as it started to here. Her gifts as a pianist and an arranger of melody all cam to fruition here on Lady Soul. Its here that Areth became the diva. The first diva, the best diva, the only diva that mattered.

A milestone of Aretha's career, and even more so a milestone of soul as a genre. Lady Soul is a pivital moment in the history of music, and still stands today as a treasure.


1968
Aretha Now


01. Think
02. I Say A Little Prayer
03. See Saw
04. Night Time Is The Right Time
05. You Send Me
06. You're A Sweet Sweet Man
07. I Take What I Want
08. Hello Sunshine
09. A Change
10. I Can't See Myself Leaving You

Aretha Now often gets over shadowed by a couple of her bigger selling and more revered albums of this period, with good reason, they are in fact better, but this is no slouch and is in fact still one of her absolute best albums. 

Aretha Now is strong from start to finish. The opening 1 - 2 punch of the powerful 'Think' and the almost gospel 'I Say A Little Prayer' could be the reason for this classic being lost in the shuffle. I've always found it strange when albums put all the powerhouse hitters at the very beginning of the line-up. Where else do you go from there? it is enough to make a listener lose interest when nothing quite lives up to the start of the show. 

But what we do have are a handful of great readings of some already classic recordings. Aretha does wonders with 'See Saw' and in her hands 'Night Time Is The Right Time' is so damn powerful. But more than anything else, when Aretha works her magic on 'You Send Me' its just that, magic, Sam Cooke be damned, this might be the ultimate version. 

The rest of the album is filled with Aretha's killer pipes and her as usual solid backing band turning out wonderful soul workings. Is Aretha Now her best album? No, not quite, but it is certainly worth a spin no and again.


1968
Aretha In Paris


01. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
02. Don't Let Me Lose This Dream
03. Soul Serenade
04. Night Life
05. Baby, I Love You
06. Groovin'
07. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
08. Come Back Baby
09. Dr. Feelgood (Love Is A Serious Business)
10. Since You've Been (Sweet Sweet Baby)
11. I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)
12. Chain Of Fools
13. Respect

A live album drawing its material from Aretha Franklin's first three Atlantic albums. It seems to be generally overlooked but there are good things here - but it has the feel of a live performance in that Franklin starts professional but a bit distant, and then loosens up as she goes along: the early up tempo tracks - (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction and Don't Let Me Lose This Dream - are raced through, but by the end Chain of Fools and Respect are more controlled and powerful. Producer Jerry Wexler complained bitterly about the backing band, but this might be partly sour grapes in that he didn't have the power (as he had on Franklin's studio albums) to choose the musicians: I listened to it concentrating on the backing musicians and thought the piano on Dr Feelgood was impressive, then realised it was Franklin herself playing - but the guitar and piano on Night Life (the other outstanding track) are fine. The problem is perhaps not in the musicians but in the arrangements - all the up-tempo tracks seem as though they are rushing for a train and it is on the slower numbers that Franklin is given the space to confront the songs.


1968
Soul '69


01. Ramblin'
02. Today I Sing The Blues
03. River's Invitation
04. Pitiful
05. Crazy He Calls Me
06. Bring It On Home To Me
07. Tracks Of My Tears
08. If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody
09. Gentle On My Mind
10. So Long
11. I'll Never Be Free
12. Elusive Butterfly

One thing that immediately jumped out at me when listening to Soul 69 is that Jerry Wexler is the single most important person in Aretha's illustrious career.  Had Wexler been at Columbia, where Aretha was making more Jazz/Pop flavored albums, she might very well have done something like this much earlier.  But it took the Wexler orchestrated move to Atlantic, and his vision and good taste in setting up those great Muscle Shoals sessions for Aretha to fully realize her incredible range, not to mention potential.  So what we have here, is a very jazz oriented album, with not a solitary hit single.  Still, there are some truly stunning moments as on the Gospel tinged "River's Invitation", the supurb reading of the Jazz standard "Crazy HNe Calls Me", and her excellent take on Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home To Me", which has Aretha, as she did on Otis Redding's "Respect", simply taking ownership, and making the song hers.  Yes, there are a couple of duds.  "Gentle On My Mind" was simply a bad idea, and "Tracks of My Tears" while better, is not better by much.  All in all though, this is a very worthwhile album to seek out, and when you consider that Aretha was at a huge peak with the style she was known for at the time, a rather courageous effort as well.


1970
This Girl's In Love With You


01. Son Of A Preacher Man
02. Share Your Love With Me
03. Dark End Of The Street
04. Let It Be 3:33
05. Eleanor Rigby
06. This Girl's In Love With You
07. It Ain't Fair
08. The Weight
09. Call Me
10. Sit Down And Cry

Although it's covers-heavy, probably my second-favourite Aretha album after Lady Soul and somewhat underrated. "Son of a Preacher Man", "Share Your Love With Me", "Dark End of the Street", "Let It Be" (for me the best version of the song) and "It Ain't Fair" are all well up there among my favourite Aretha recordings and most of them have been mainstays on my MP3 player for some time. 

"It Ain't Fair" in particular deserves to be counted among the best lonely anthems ever put to an album and probably few would know it who weren't fans of Aretha. In the case of "Son of a Preacher Man", it was never something she'd screw up. I wouldn't say it's better than the original, but for wanting to hear a different version now and then it's great. I don't care much about "Eleanor Rigby" or "The Weight" but can't complain about their place on the album.


1970
Spirit In The Dark


01. Don't Play That Song
02. The Thrill Is Gone (From Yesterday's Kiss)
03. Pullin'
04. You And Me
05. Honest I Do
06. Spirit In The Dark
07. When The Battle Is Over
08. One Way Ticket
09. Try Matty's
10. That's All I Want From You
11. Oh No Not My Baby
12. Why I Sing The Blues

Reportedly the record where Aretha Franklin and Atlantic constructed an album rather than just a selection of songs - but this is hard to recognize, after all most of her songs had a fairly unified subject matter: that is, for the lack of a better term, gender relations (not a particularly original subject matter but one allowing constant comment). There aren't any big hits here, although Don't Play That Song is a great pop tune, but there are some of Franklin's great performances, most notably The Thrill Is Gone (From Yesterday's Kisses): this ranks amongst the greatest soul tracks. For me Franklin is the great soul singer because she has the power of James Brown, a voice that can tear a song open to show its nerves, but also a control, a delicacy, a tenderness that can express a breadth of emotions. Five of the songs are written by Franklin, the others are what are often sneeringly called covers - but Franklin makes these songs her own, her voice reinvents them, gives them personal resonance (a lesson that many contemporary singers should learn: you don't have to write your own songs: there are too many good singers singing dreary songs because they keep to their own material rather than using what is already out there). I know we are all supposed to swoon when listening to the backing bands of Southern Soul, but for me it is always the great limitation of the music, why it hardly ever manages to be more that high class pop (and I suppose there isn't anything wrong with high class pop, it's just that I would prefer to drink Burgundy than Coke): the musicians push the tune on but never have the personality to do anything more: although there is some fine piano accompaniment here - I presume it is Franklin herself - and on When the Battle Is Over some good guitar by Duane Allman.


1971
Live At Fillmore West (Deluxe)


101. Respect
102. Love The One You're With
103. Bridge Over Troubled Water
104. Eleanor Rigby
105. Make It With You
106. Don't Play That Song
107. Dr. Feelgood
108. Spirit In The Dark
109. Spirit In The Dark (Reprise)
110. Reach Out And Touch (Somebody's Hand)

201. Respect
202. Call Me
203. Mixed-Up Girl
204. Love The One You're With
205. Bridge Over Troubled Water
206. Share Your Love With Me
207. Eleanor Rigby
208. Make It With You
209. You're All I Need To Get By
210. Don't Play That Song
211. Dr. Feelgood
212. Spirit In The Dark
213. Spirit In The Dark (Reprise)

The Queen blows into the fabled Fillmore West with The King Curtis Band and proceeds to blow the roof off.  The album opens with "Respect" done at a blistering pace.  Check out those stacatto horns at the end...dynamite!  She also puts a nice soulful touch on "Love the One You're With" and adds her trademark gospel touch to "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (love that hammond organ)  Side Two is more like a Sunday revival meeting beginning with "Dr. Feelgood" (hardly church music there) and moving into "Spirit in the Dark".  "Spirit" is 100% pure soul, and Aretha milks every drop of emotion out of the song, ending in a call and response with the audience that shows that she got a lot of that Soul from hearing her Daddy preach.  At this point in the album, you can picture Aretha at the pulpit instead of the stage.  The tempo of the song slows down to a blues beat, and the great Ray Charles comes on to finish the song with her.  So by the end you have Aretha, Ray Charles, and The King Curtis Band all sharing the same stage, and cookin'.  That moment is all you need to know about late 60's/early 70's Soul.


1972
Young, Gifted And Black


01. Oh Me Oh My (I'm A Fool For You Baby)
02. Day Dreaming
03. Rock Steady
04. Young, Gifted And Black
05. All The King's Horses
06. A Brand New Me
07. April Fools
08. I've Been Loving You Too Long
09. First Snow In Kokomo
10. The Long And Winding Road
11. Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)
12. Border Song (Holy Moses)

Aretha delivers a rock solid effort on Young, Gifted and Black!  We'll get the minor flaws out of the way first.  "A Brand New me" and "April Fools" are pretty lightweight pop music affairs, and even though Aretha does he best to overcome that, the songs fall short of the quality of the rest of the album.  And what a rest of the album it is!  You get the hits right off the bat, 1-2-3.  Beginning with "Oh Me, Oh My", followed by two great songs penned by The Queen herself.  The beautiful "Daydreaming", and the epic "Rock Steady".  Nuff said.  On to the stuff you might not have heard.  "Young, Gifted and Black" is right out of church.  If only the R&B artists of today could deliver a message half as positive and uplifting as Aretha does here. Aretha also steals another Otis Redding song and makes it her own.  "I've Been Loving You Too Long" is my favorite track on the album.  It's pure Aretha, pouring out her Soul and laying it bare before you.  It will leave you breathless!  "First Snow in Kokomo" is another Aretha original, and another sweet beauty.  She also ends the album on a big high with her cover of Elton John's "Border Song".  Take my advice.  Pick this up, and turn it up.  This album will knock you out!


1972
Amazing Grace: The Complete Recordings


101. Ken Lupper Organ Introduction (On Your Way)
102. Rev. James Cleveland Opening Remarks
103. The Southern California Community Choir On Our Way
104. Rev. James Cleveland Aretha's Introduction
105. Aretha Franklin Wholy Holy
106. Aretha Franklin You'll Never Walk Alone
107. Aretha Franklin What A Friend We Have In Jesus
108. Aretha Franklin With Rev. James Cleveland Precious Memories
109. Aretha Franklin How I Got Over
110. Aretha Franklin Precious Lord, Take My Hand / You've Got A Friend
111. Aretha Franklin Climbing Higher Mountains
112. Aretha Franklin Amazing Grace
113. Aretha Franklin My Sweet Lord (Instrumental)
114. Aretha Franklin Give Yourself To Jesus

201. Ken Lupper & Rev. James Cleveland Organ Introduction (On Our Way)
202. The Southern California Community Choir On Our Way
203. Rev. James Cleveland Aretha's Introduction
204. Aretha Franklin What A Friend We Have In Jesus
205. Aretha Franklin Wholy Holy
206. Aretha Franklin Climbing Higher Mountains
207. Aretha Franklin God Will Take Care Of You
208. Aretha Franklin Old Landmark
209. Aretha Franklin Mary, Don't You Weep
210. Aretha Franklin Never Grow Old
211. Reverend C.L. Franklin Remarks By Rev. C.L. Franklin
212. Aretha Franklin With Rev. James Cleveland Precious Memories
213. Aretha Franklin My Sweet Lord (Instrumental)

Many music critics agree this is probably one of the finest gospel albums ever recorded. This live, two-CD set is Aretha's crowning homage to her gospel roots and shows her dynamic vocal range. Whether handling material from secular-inspired artists like Carole King (You've Got a Friend) and Marvin Gaye (Wholly Holy), to more traditional songs like What a Friend We Have in Jesus, How I Got Over, and searing arrangements of gospel classics like Mary Don't You Weep and Never Grow Old, and the10-minute title track will enthrall and move you like no other singer can. Produced by music industry veterans Jerry Wexler and Arif Mardin the 14 tracks on this CD were recorded live at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angles, California. The post-mixing and editing captures every audience nuance and there's an excellent quality to the balancing between Aretha's vocals, accompanying band, background choir, and even the remarks between songs by her father Rev. C.L. Franklin and church pastor, the stalwart Rev. James Cleveland. Whether you are a fan of gospel music or not I urge you to own this amazing recording simply because it's just another example of Aretha Franklin at her finest!


1973
Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky)


01. Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky)
02. Somewhere
03. So Swell When You're Well
04. Angel
05. Sister From Texas
06. Mister Spain
07. That's The Way I Feel About Cha
08. Just Right Tonight
10. Master Of Eyes (The Deepness Of Your Eyes)

Under-rated by many, because it veers from the typical "Aretha Franklin" material, there are pearls to be found here.  Leonard Bernstein wept when he first heard his friend Quincy Jones's collaboration with Franklin on "Somewhere."  Jones himself stated in an interview that he'd like the piece played at his own interment. This is deep introspective soul.  Of course it didn't achieve mega-hit status because this is serious, serious music and at the time of its release perhaps the public was looking to Franklin more for inspiration than to hear her demons exorcised musically.


1974
Let Me In Your Life


01. Let Me In Your Life
02. Every Natural Thing
03. Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing
04. I'm In Love
05. Until You Come Back To Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)
06. The Masquerade Is Over
07. With Pen In Hand
08. Oh Baby
09. Eight Days On The Road
10. If You Don't Think
11. A Song For You

This is one of my favorite Aretha album. The material is great, the production and arrangements are excellent, Aretha is at the peak of her vocal powers, and the back-up band is strictly A-list talent. I love just about every song, my favorite being Aretha's self-penned ballad, "If You Don't Think."  The song and the arrangement is simple but elegant and Aretha's vocal is awesome.  The critics always give this album short shrift and I've never understood why.


1974
Sparkle


01. Sparkle
02. Something He Can Feel
03. Hooked On Your Love
04. Look Into Your Heart
05. I Get High
06. Jump
07. Loving You Baby
08. Rock With Me

A Detroit/Chicago summit, Aretha singing Curtis Mayfield (who composed and produced the album). It is the soundtrack of a film vaguely inspired by "Dreamgirls", where she did not appeared. They did another album together, Almighty Fire, but it was never reissued and is looked down by the critics, as most of the late Aretha albums on Atlantic


2007
Oh Me Oh My: Aretha Live In Philly, 1972


01. Introduction (Also Sprach Zarathustra) / Rock Steady
02. This Girl's In Love With You
03. I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) / I Say A Little Prayer
04. Day Dreaming/Think
05. Spanish Harlem
06. Chain Of Fools / See Saw
07. Don't Play That Song
08. Respect
09. Bridge Over Troubled Water / We've Only Just Begun
10. Young, Gifted And Black (Instrumental)
11. Oh Me Oh My (I'm A Fool For You Baby)
12. That's The Way I Feel About Cha
13. April Fools
14. Spirit In The Dark

I went into this with high expectations, as in 1972 Aretha was in her prime and she's always been a great live performer. But, while this has some stellar moments, I get the feeling that she & her band would rather be elsewhere. Since this was a performance for the National Association of Television and Radio Announcers convention, maybe that was indeed the case. It lacks the energy of many live recordings of hers I've heard and the fact that this was an industry show rather than one in front of her fans I think shows.


2007
Rare & Unreleased Recordings From The Golden Reign Of The Queen Of Soul


101. I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) (Demo)
102. Dr. Feelgood (Love Is A Serious Business) (Demo)
103. Sweet Bitter Love (Demo)
104. It Was You
105. The Letter
106. So Soon
107. Mr. Big
108. Talk To Me, Talk To Me
109. The Fool On The Hill
110. Pledging My Love/The Clock
111. You're Taking Up Another Man's Place
112. You Keep Me Hangin' On
113. I'm Trying To Overcome
114. My Way
115. My Cup Runneth Over
116. You're All I Need To Get By (Take 1)
117. You're All I Need To Get By (Take 2)
118. Lean On Me

201. Rock Steady (Alternate Mix)
202. I Need A Strong Man (The To-To Song)
203. Heavenly Father
204. Sweetest Smile And The Funkiest Style
205. This Is
206. Tree Of Life
207. Do You Know
208. Can You Love Again
209. I Want To Be With You
210. Suzanne
211. That's The Way I Feel About Cha (Alternate Version)
212. Ain't But The One
213. The Happy Blues
214. At Last
215. Love Letters
216. I'm In Love (Alternate Vocal)
217. Are You Leaving Me (Demo)

Pure power and joy from the greatest soul singer of all time. Every song is perfect... Well, after obsessive listening for four days, I realize every song is not perfect, but an awful lot of them are pretty darn good. Try "I Never Loved a Man", "Dr. Feelgood", "Mr. Big", and "I Want to be With You" for pure listening pleasure. It's impossible to resist the bass/drum groove of "Rock Steady" - this is what James Brown and Aretha would sound like if they had ever made an album together.



Even thou the previous two boxed sets claim completeness, they are not, so here are some of the left out albums...


1965
Songs Of Faith


01. There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood
02. Precious Lord - Part I
03. Precious Lord - Part II
04. You Grow Closer
05. Never Grow Old
06. The Day Is Past And Gone
07. He Will Wash You White As Snow
08. While The Blood Runs Warm
09. Yield Not To Temptation

Aretha Franklin's recording career began in 1956 with the help of local record label J-V-B Records. Primitive recording equipment was installed in the New Bethel Baptist Church and nine tracks were recorded, featuring Franklin on vocals and piano. In 1956, J-V-B released Franklin's first single, "Never Grow Old", backed with "You Grow Closer". A second single, "Precious Lord (Part One)" backed with "Precious Lord (Part Two)" was issued in 1959. These four tracks, with the addition of "There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood", were released on side one of the 1956 album, Spirituals (J-V-B 100), which was reissued in 1962 under the same title by Battle Records (Battle 6105).
In 1965, Checker Records released Songs of Faith, featuring the five tracks from the 1956 Spirituals album, with the addition of four previously unreleased recordings.


1966
Soul Sister


01. Until You Were Gone
02. You Made Me Love You
03. Follow Your Heart
04. Ol' Man River
05. Sweet Bitter Love
06. A Mother's Love
07. Swanee 2:24
08. (No, No) I'm Losing You
09. Take A Look
10. Can't You Just See Me
11. Cry Like A Baby

Aretha Franklin's recordings for Columbia have a bad reputation, but I picked up three of these albums over 30 years ago and have a soft spot for them...perhaps just because they aren’t as bad as their reputation. Soul Sister was the last of them...and the weakest of those I've heard. And even for a sympathetic listener they are a little puzzling. It is difficult not to ask, ‘What the hell were Columbia doing?’ I suppose they were trying to reproduce Ray Charles’ success with Georgia on My Mind, but Ol’ Man River? Swanee? The fact that Franklin’s voice is fresh and powerful only makes the whole exercise stranger: did they not notice the mismatch of singer and material? On Swanee she just blasts it out and it doesn’t have her usual exuberance...it’s powerful, but just a bit blunt and noisy. There are a couple that go for a rougher R&B sound, but they are a bit of a confused noise. My favourite tracks are Until You Were Gone and (No, No) I’m Losing You with their corny and early 1960s string arrangements: for some reason I like the contrast between Franklin’s honest, straightforward voice and the string confections: it’s like finding a precious stone in a box of gooey oversweet chocolates.


1967
Take it Like You Give It


01. Why Was I Born?
02. I May Never Get To Heaven
03. Tighten Up Your Tie, Button Up Your Jacket (Make It For The Door)
04. Her Little Heart Went To Loveland
05. Lee Cross
06. Take It Like You Give It
07. Only The One You Love
08. Deeper
09. Remember Me
10. Land Of Dreams
11. A Little Bit Of Soul

Columbia had no idea what to do with Aretha.  They seemed to want to cast her as a standards-based pop singer, but couldn't seem to deny her true strengths as a soul singer.  The arrangements on this record range from nice gospel-infused numbers to cheesy over-the-top pop arrangements.  The closer the arrangements are to soul, the better Aretha sounds.  It's interesting to hear how she tackles a standard pop song like "Her Heart Went to Loveland", but if this was all she ever did Aretha wouldn't have become Aretha.


1969
Soft and Beautiful


01. Only The Lonely
02. I Wish I Didn't Love You So
03. When The World Was Young (Ah, The Apple Trees)
04. Shangri-La
05. A Mother's Love
06. My Coloring Book
07. Jim
08. Friendly Persuasion (Thee I Love)
09. But Beautiful
10. People (From "Funny Girl")

Released on June 20, 1969, by Columbia Records. The album was recorded when Franklin was 22 years old between July 9 and 16, 1964, It was her last album on Columbia before she moved to Atlantic Records and until 1969, unreleased, although an alternative version of "A Mother's Love" appeared on Franklin's 1966 Columbia LP Soul Sister. It reached Number 29 on Billboard's R&B chart. Mark Bego, in Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul, called it "the most consistently paced album of her later Columbia years"


1977
Sweet Passion


01. Break It To Me Gently
02. When I Think About You
03. What I Did For Love
04. No One Could Ever Love You More
05. A Tender Touch
06. Touch Me Up
07. Sunshine Will Never Be The Same
08. Meadows Of Springtime
09. Mumbles / I've Got The Music In Me
10. Sweet Passion

One of the last albums Franklin made for Atlantic records, this has never been released on cd. It`s not a bad record, there are plenty of GOOD songs here, mainly written by Franklin and Lamont Dozier. The only hit was "Break it to me gently", which isn`t even the best track. Among the highlights are the uptempo, pop-sounding "When i think about you", and the beautiful "No one could ever love you more". There`s also jazzy song/medley called "Mumbles/I`ve got the music in me".


1978
Almighty Fire


01. Almighty Fire (Woman Of The Future)
02. Lady, Lady
03. More Than Just A Joy
04. Keep On Loving You
05. I Needed You Baby
06. Close To You
07. No Matter Who You Love
08. This You Can Believe
09. I'm Your Speed

Like Aretha's Sparkle, Almighty Fire was produced by the great Curtis Mayfield.  The material isn't as consistently good as on Sparkle, but the groove is there, along with Aretha's ever-stellar vocals.  Also, one of my favorite Aretha songs,"I'm Your Speed," is on this album. A simple ballad that Aretha wrote, it's just Aretha and her piano.


1979
La Diva


01. Ladies Only
02. It's Gonna Get A Bit Better
03. What If I Should Ever Need You
04. Honey I Need Your Love
05. I Was Made For You
06. Only Star
07. Reasons Why
08. You Brought Me Back To Life
09. Half A Love
10. The Feeling

It is not only disco, and in the end, what is wrong of recording a disco album? At last it was 1979? Who can blame you to record an album in style that is in! It's gonna get a bit better is great funk song! If this record was recorded in 2000es it would be praised as an essential neo-soul or acid-jazz album... It doesn't mean that this album is that good, it means that today music is that awful!



Since we are going... lets finish this with a bang!

Aretha Franklin & King Curtis 
2005
Live At Fillmore West: Don't Fight The Feeling


101. King Curtis Intro
102. The Memphis Horns Knock On Wood
103. King Curtis Whole Lotta Love
104. King Curtis Them Changes
105. King Curtis A Whiter Shade Of Pale
106. Billy Preston My Sweet Lord
107. King Curtis Ode To Billie Joe
108. King Curtis Mr. Bojangles
109. King Curtis Soul Serenade
110. King Curtis Memphis Soul Stew
111. King Curtis Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours)
112. Aretha Franklin Respect
113. Aretha Franklin Call Me
114. Aretha Franklin Mixed-Up Girl
115. Aretha Franklin Love The One You're With
116. Aretha Franklin Bridge Over Troubled Water
117. Aretha Franklin Eleanor Rigby
118. Aretha Franklin Make It With You
119. Aretha Franklin Don't Play That Song

201. Aretha Franklin You're All I Need To Get By
202. Aretha Franklin Dr. Feelgood
203. Aretha Franklin Spirit In The Dark
204. Aretha Franklin Spirit In The Dark (Reprise)
205. The Memphis Horns Knock On Wood
206. King Curtis Them Changes
207. King Curtis Whole Lotta Love
208. King Curtis A Whiter Shade Of Pale
209. King Curtis I Stand Accused
210. King Curtis Soul Serenade
211. King Curtis Memphis Soul Stew
212. Aretha Franklin Respect
213. Aretha Franklin Call Me
214. Aretha Franklin Love The One You're With
215. Aretha Franklin Bridge Over Troubled Water

301. Aretha Franklin Share Your Love With Me
302. Aretha Franklin Eleanor Rigby
303. Aretha Franklin Make It With You
304. Aretha Franklin You're All I Need To Get By
305. Aretha Franklin Don't Play That Song
306. Aretha Franklin Dr. Feelgood
307. Aretha Franklin Spirit In The Dark
308. Aretha Franklin Spirit In The Dark (Reprise)
309. The Memphis Horns Knock On Wood
310. King Curtis Them Changes
311. King Curtis A Whiter Shade Of Pale
312. King Curtis Ode To Billie Joe
313. King Curtis Soul Serenade
314. King Curtis Memphis Soul Stew

401. Aretha Franklin Respect
402. Aretha Franklin Call Me
403. Aretha Franklin Love The One You're With
404. Aretha Franklin Bridge Over Troubled Water
405. Aretha Franklin Share Your Love With Me
406. Aretha Franklin Eleanor Rigby
407. Aretha Franklin Make It With You
408. Aretha Franklin Don't Play That Song
409. Aretha Franklin You're All I Need To Get By
410. Aretha Franklin Dr. Feelgood
411. Aretha Franklin Spirit In The Dark
412. Aretha Franklin With Ray Charles Spirit In The Dark (Reprise)
413. Aretha Franklin Reach Out And Touch (Somebody's Hand)


Limited to 5000 numbered copies.

Tracks 1-1 to 2-4 were recorded on March 5, 1971.
Tracks 2-5 to 3-8 were recorded on March 6, 1971.
Tracks 3-9 to 4-13 were recorded on March 7, 1971.

The original Atlantic LP Aretha Franklin - Live At Fillmore West contains the following tracks: 2-14, 3-6, 4-1, 4-4, 4-6 to 4-8, 4-11 to 4-13.

The original Atco LP King Curtis - Live At Fillmore West contains the following tracks: 1-8, 1-11, 2-7, 2-9, 3-10 to 3-14.


One of the most anticipated and ultimately satisfying run of shows ever to occur on the Fillmore West stage occurred in March of 1971, when Bill Graham presented three consecutive nights featuring Tower of Power, King Curtis, and Aretha Franklin. Immortalized in part on the album Aretha Live at Fillmore West, these performances became a landmark event that played a significant role in Franklin reaching beyond the loyal black audiences that already knew of her incredible talent. Pulling off these shows was not an easy task, but thanks in large part to the vision of Jerry Wexler, who had signed Franklin and produced her studio recordings, the challenging logistics were overcome, but not without some trepidation. First, Fillmore West was a much smaller venue that could not accommodate the size audience required to guarantee Franklin’s performing fee at the time. This was overcome with the solution of recording a live album to offset the financial arrangements. Additionally, Franklin had been touring with a traditional show band for years, but Wexler wanted to use an entirely different group for these performances, utilizing top session musicians, including those that had played on Franklin’s studio recordings. There were also serious concerns about how Franklin would be received by the primarily white hippie audience that frequented Fillmore West.

Wexler persuaded Franklin to work with King Curtis and the Kingpins, which featured one of the greatest rhythm sections on the planet. Led by Curtis Owsley, whose soulful sax had been prominently featured on Franklin’s earlier studio sessions for Atlantic, his Kingpins included a dream team of musicians that featured Cornell Dupree on guitar, Jerry Jemmott on bass, Bernard Purdie on drums, Truman Thomas on electric piano, and Pancho Morales on congas. They additionally recruited the up and coming organist Billy Preston, already a veteran of countless sessions, including The Beatles Let It Be album sessions. To give the ensemble the additional punch required to match Franklin’s intimidating vocal power, the legendary Memphis Horns were also recruited, along with the Sweethearts Of Soul (Pat Smith and Aretha’s cousins, Margaret Branch and Brenda Bryant) on background vocals. Aretha Franklin was totally in her prime as America’s Queen of Soul when this recording was made in 1971 at San Francisco’s legendary Fillmore West auditorium. Franklin, who had already captured the hearts and minds of young, black America, was eager to break out to a new, mainstream white audience, who had embraced her hit singles, but not really delved deeper into her musical repertoire.

The album, Aretha Franklin at the Fillmore West released shortly after she performed this and the other two shows, was a doctored recap of her three-night stand that failed to capture the pure electricity of these shows. In 2007 Rhino Records released all three shows in one brilliant CD collection entitled Don’t Fight the Feeling: The Complete Aretha Franklin & King Curtis Live at the Fillmore West. However, that release was limited to 5,000 copies and is now out of print.

This performance, played on the third night of the run, March 7th, 1971, features a kick-ass combination of the King Curtis Kingpins band and The Memphis Horns, and is probably the best of the six performances Franklin gave. She opens, ironically, with the song that she often closed her shows with, “Respect,” written by the late Otis Redding. There are hot versions of her other hits, such as “Call Me,” “Don’t Play That Song,” and “Spirit In The Dark,” performed here with Ray Charles. She also does a bevy of soulful covers including Stephen Stills’ “Love The One You’re With,” Bread’s “Make It With You,” a stinging version of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which was then a hit for Simon & Garfunkel.

Franklin, who was Atlantic’s answer to the Motown sensation, actually closes with a pair of Motown classics: “You’re All I Need To Get By” and “Reach Out And (Touch Somebody’s Hand),” which she absolutely crushes in comparison to the Diana Ross version.

Give this recording a solid listen and you’ll understand what R-E-S-P-E-C-T is all about.