Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Happy birthday, Aretha Franklin

Born in 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee, the Queen of Soul is 72 today.

Here she is live on Soul Train in 1973, performing “Rock Steady” from 1972’s Young, Gifted and Black, her fifth gold album. I’m not sure how live this is, actually – the vocals look and sound it, but we can’t see the band who sure sound like Cornell Dupree (guitar), Chuck Rainey (bass) and Bernard Purdie (drums) and the Memphis Horns (horns, obv.), not to mention Donny Hathaway (organ) and Dr John (percussion)  who played on the album track. Whatever, it is imperishably glorious. Every home should have a copy of this album and 1970’s Spirit in the Dark. The later albums are, to say the least, patchy but anything on Atlantic is worth buying and the Arista albums have their moments, especially the first two. You don't need me to tell you how good the gospel albums are. After that, you're on your own. But always, that voice: 


Chris Bourke said...

There's a case to be made that "Young Gifted and Black" is her greatest album. Even her early Atlantic albums have filler, too many standards and cover versions. This too has cover versions, but with the R&B/fusion players you've mentioned - so much more experimental and subtle than the great Muscle Shoals players she had used for all her Atlantic albums 'til "Spirit in the Dark" - they aren't covers at all, but interpretations. Even 'Long and Winding Road' or 'I've Been Loving You Too Long' she makes her own, in a delicate, sparse, emotional way (similar to what Roberta Flack was doing at the same time). Several originals by Aretha stand alongside classics such as the ecstatic, slow-building 'Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time',Elton John's 'Border Song' - which she turns into a genuine gospel song - and the uplifting 'A Brand New Me', which swings like Basie. After the gentle, tightrope walking openers 'Oh Me Oh My' and her own 'Day Dreaming', the funk classic 'Rock Steady' is a bit of a shock, and - great as it is - not in keeping with the rest of the album. The title song, originally by Nina Simone, is of course a manifesto that has never been bettered, handled without stridency. If one can ever burn out to the classic early Atlantic period (maybe 'Respect' but never 'I Have Never Loved a Man' or 'I Say a Little Prayer'), this is the Aretha album that keeps on giving; it's the ultimate soul desert island disc.

Theron actionverbme said...

Nice write up! I love young Aretha!