Thursday, August 22, 2013

84 and 83. Lady Soul and I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You (1967) Aretha Franklin

Lady Soul

  1. Chain Of Fools
  2. Money Won't Change You
  3. People Get Ready
  4. Niki Hoeky
  5. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
  6. Since You've Been Gone (Sweet Sweet Baby)
  7. Good To Me As I Am To You
  8. Come Back Baby
  9. Groovin'
  10. Ain't No Way

I never loved a man like I loved you

  1. Respect
  2. Drown In My Tears
  3. I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Loved You)
  4. Soul Serenade
  5. Don't Let Me Lose This Dream
  6. Baby, Baby, Baby
  7. Dr. Feelgood
  8. Good Times
  9. Do Right Woman - Do Right Man
  10. Save Me
  11. A Change Is Gonna Come

Forgive me for reviewing two albums in the same post but it makes sense to write about 84 and 83 at the same time. Both albums are by the same artist, working in the same studio with the same producer and both were recorded less than a year apart. 1968's Lady Soul shows no progression  or development from 1967's I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You. In the 10 months between recording, Franklin hadn't changed her style, altered her approach or expanded in any way as an artist. And why should she? She found the style that suited her magnificent voice and stuck with it. It was definitely a groove and not a rut and Aretha was right to mine it for all it was worth.

Damn that woman could sing. Aretha Franklin has one of the most magnificent natural voices ever to grace a slab of vinyl. She has soul and the lungs to match it and the end result is the best R and B ever to come out of any studio anywhere. The woman had raw, natural talent and all she needed to achieve immortality was someone who knew how to work a studio and arrange the right talent behind her. Jerry Wexler was the right match for Franklin and together the two produced a string of albums which sound as perfect today as they did back then.  Wexler put Franklin in front of a tight band and added just the right amount of backing vocals and embellishments to tastefully augment the voice which rightfully sits front and centre.

But a producing a talent like Aretha is more than just hiring drummers and arranging microphones. A big part of producing a soul star is choosing what songs your star is going to lend her lungs to. A great singer could belt out a rendition of scone recipes and it would sound great but the perfect song matched to the right talent can produce something we think of as a classic. Jerry Wexler is regularly hailed as a genius producer and musical great and he deserves every accolade he's ever received if only for the fact that it was his idea to have Aretha Franklin record Respect.

Respect was a minor hit for Otis Redding who wrote it but Wexler turned it into a song that seemed custom written for Aretha's vocal talents, although it did need some tweaking. Otis pleaded for respect but Aretha demanded it. She wanted respect and she was going to get it, partly because she felt her gender deserved more respect and partly because she could sing at such a volume it was impossible to deny it.

Respect works as a feminist anthem. It works as a woman demanding her dues but also as a sex decrying their treatment in a patriarchal society. Aretha added the famous R E S P E C T refrain and had her sisters on backing vocals sing "Sock it to me" over and over again, which in retrospect does seem an odd choice for a woman demanding she be respected. Even if you don't enter into the message you can't deny it's an incredible rendition of a magnificent song and has been absolutely nailed by Aretha in a way that few songs are so comprehensively nailed by anyone.

There are a host of other classic songs on these two outstanding albums. Chain of Fools, People Get Ready, You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman, A Change is Gonna Come, Do Right Woman, Do Right Man etc etc. Both albums have a track listing that read like checklist of great soul numbers and Aretha nails each and every one. She delivers a delivers a definitive version of every hit she plays and is perfect on every one.

If you were going to quibble you could say that I Never Loved A Man isn't as strong and is propped by by Respect but personally I choose to take both albums as a singular whole and adore them both. I don't listen to enough soul music but when I hear these two albums I always realise what a mistake this is.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Her piano playing alone is truly a masterpieace. Can i get a Amen."

-Yes you can get an Amen. It's worth pointing out that Aretha wasn't just a voice she played keys as well.

So does Aretha earn your Respect or not? Let me know below.

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