The Genesis of Aretha: 1960-1966
There are so many Aretha compilations on the market – but this one, one of the first since her passing, is a goodie.
Its well established that between 1967 and 1972 Aretha Franklin was crowned the Queen of Soul and in that five year period there are at least nine amazing albums; many of them worth having in any serious record collection. You can’t cover the ground she covered there by just having a single or double greatest hits; the compilations don’t get to the heart of her return to her gospel roots, nor the full funk workouts of her bands drive by Bernard Purdie. You get a few key songs but you need more than that.
And that crystalisation had to start somewhere. There was great music from Aretha Franklin as early as the late 1950s – she was a child prodigy.
So, charting the very best of the early years, this collection covers 1960-1966 – there are jazz standards (Skylark, Unforgettable) and church-rousing gospel rippers (Lee Cross, Evil Gal Blues) and the start of that great soul sound (Soulville) where she merged the gospel and jazz roots to make her version of blues. Speaking of her version of blues, her renditions of Trouble In Mind, It Ain’t Necessarily So and Today I Speak The Blues speak directly to that.
Look, there are some big – big – hits here. Try A Little Tenderness. Walk On By. You know these songs by more definitive versions, but you quite possibly know Aretha’s versions too. You’ll love them instantly if you don’t already have a fondness for them. She had such a way with a song. Such a voice.
But what makes this a killer compilation is that it collects up lesser known pieces, in the scheme of things. One Room Paradise, for instance. Which bursts with a pop energy, has full gospel and funk flavours and is driven by a great R’n’B spirit. It might be almost anyone else’s greatest hit – but in the Franklin canon it’s just another good song. One of hundreds.
Here we get 22 songs that show the progress, suggesting the path of – and towards – greatness. You need dozens of discs to truly appreciate Aretha Franklin in all her glory. But this single disc will get you started in covering the early years. It’s packed with gems. And it arrives as part of a big new campaign to celebrate her legacy via re-releases, biopics and new docos. What matters most to me with Aretha Franklin, with any of the musicians I truly love, is the music. And here you get great music. That’s what makes this essential.
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