Graham Reid | | 1 min read
It's widely acknowledged that Columbia really didn't know what to do with the young Aretha Franklin -- although it is a convenient myth that she didn't record much for them worth hearing.
But it is certainly true that when she moved to Atlantic in '66 at age 24 and came under the tutelage of Jerry Wexler she found her voice as the finest female soul singer of her generation.
Her first single for the label was I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Loved You) and it bridged blues and gospel. The flipside was the equally remarkable Do Right Woman-Do Right Man written by Dan Penn and Chips Moman.
Both of these appeared on her first Atlantic album I Never Loved A Man of '67, alongside classic soul songs Respect, Don't Let Me Lose This Dream, Dr Feelgood (not as ruined by American Idol contenders), and Sam Cooke's Good Time and A Change is Gonna Come.
It was, and remains, a remarkable album.
It is the first in this colection of five of her early Atlantic albums which are filled with distilled genius: Lady Soul of '68 (which includes Chain of Fools, People Get Ready, You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman and Since You've Been Gone); Aretha Now also in '68 (Think, I Say a Little Prayer, Night Time is the Right Time); Spirit in the Dark from '70 (her great Don't Play That Song, the title track, Honest I Do, Why I Sing the Blues) and Live at Fillmore West in '71 (her hits and Eleanor Rigby and Stephen Stills' Love the One You're With).
Aretha brought sexual need and hurt to songs which were soulful and deep, often produced by Wexler with arrangements by Tom Dowd and Arif Mardin, and were recorded in Muscle Shoals with their fabulous horn players, and with guests like Eric Clapton and the Sweet Inspirations.
Aretha could also rock it out too, and call down the spirit.
These days the world is full of faux-soul shouters but Aretha wasn't called Soul Sister Number One and then the Queen of Soul for nothing.
Here is the evidence.
Check out her Live in Paris from these years too.
But these five CDs (no flash remastering, no extra tracks or essays etc -- just the real thing) should be in any collection. And the set is only $20 from JB Hi-Fi stores here.