You Grow Closer, 1956
Recorded live when the singer was 14, the sound of the congregation clearly audible on his voice and piano, Aretha Franklin's debut album, Songs of Faith, remains a truly disturbing and vaguely disturbing document of at least one side of life in his father's New Bethel Baptist church. (The controversial 2014 biography of David Ritz, Respect, has a rather catchy description of what happened there behind closed doors.)
But the really amazing thing is the way his voice breaks off. His producer Jerry Wexler later said that Franklin looked less like a child than "an ecstatic extant". Even in adolescence, he looked exactly like Aretha Franklin.
The standard line on Franklin's early years with Columbia records is that they were a missed opportunity. Audible baffled about what to do with her – persuade her to sing jazz-pop standards? Try to model it in the new Dionne Warwick? – producers invariably attenuated the visceral power of his voice with inappropriate material and bland agreements. But sometimes they make her do what she does best. Unforgettable album: A Tribute to Dinah Washington of 1964 concludes with two fabulous soul performances: the gospel infusion of Lee Cross and a frenetic and exciting interpretation of the 1963 version of Soulville in Washington have an advantage over the his version of, for example, Ac -Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive simply not.
I Never Loved a Man (The way I love you), 1967
Columbia's attempts to turn Franklin into a star were worked out. In contrast, when she moved to the Atlantic, Wexler opted for simplicity. "They just told me to sit down and sing," recalled Franklin during their first session at the legendary Fame Studios in Alabama. Wexler asked to sing a blues song; Franklin responded with I Never Loved to Man, a perfect example of what his sister Erma called "ability to turn extreme pain into extreme beauty": she could have sung about anything from her marriage to the scary Ted White. In any case, the trajectory of his career has changed forever in the space of three minutes.
"The girl got me that song," Otis Redding protested when she heard Franklin's version of a track from her 1965 album Otis Blue: "D & # 39; henceforth belongs to her" . He was right: Franklin's version overturns the meaning of the song. In Redding's hands, Respect is the standard complaint of a hard-working man who demands loyalty to his little woman at home. The version of Franklin, harder and more hippy than the original, transforms it into something else: an assertive and sure demand for equality that could equally be applied to women's rights or to black power. Autentically revolutionary, its vast commercial success has contributed to ushering in an era of soul music in which the socially conscious merged with commercial success.
(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, 1967
From the moment she picked up on Atlantic, it was as if someone had released the brake to Franklin's career: the huge number of unquestionable without any further classical questions that he produced in his first year with the label alone it is vaguely amazing. All of a sudden, a star big enough that the cream of the Brill Building songwriters would have invented something specially modeled for her, just four months after the launch of Respect at the top of the charts, published (You Make Me Feel Like) A Woman natural. It's such an exaggerated song, it's easy to forget how extraordinary Franklin's performance is. The transition from majestic verses controlled to a euphoric chorus is one of the most sublime moments of pop.
Chain of Fools, 1967
Yet another success of 1967. There is something audacious about Chain of Fools, a song that Don Covay wrote in 1952. It is a masterpiece of minimalism, a single winning Grammy, winner of awards, Grammy winner based entirely on a single C minor chord. He says something about Franklin's voice, which hovers over the interlocking guitars of Joe South and Jimmy Johnson, which never feels repetitive or like a muse, and it's worth noting that the song was arranged by Franklin herself. Apparently Barack Obama sang for her in their first meeting ("I thought: it's a real hip, real down and real up"), and even a live version of 1998 with Mariah Carey is pretty big.
I Say a Little Prayer, 1968
Further evidence of Franklin's incomparable ability to make a song of his own. Burt Bacharach and I Say a Little Prayer by Hal David – his text apparently intended to represent a woman who cares about her companion serving in the Vietnam War – had just been published by Dionne Warwick. He sold 1 million copies when Franklin chose to cover it. Maybe that's why the hardest version of Franklin, stripped of the trumpets and easy-listening orchestration on the Warwick single, was initially published as B-side, but radio programmers did not agree and launched the single . At least in England, where it became his biggest hit, the cover of Franklin's song remains the final version.
The Weight, 1969
Aretha Franklin reinterpreted the rock tracks as soul music so completely that it seemed that the songs were written for her. It was a trick that he brought with Crosby, Love & # 39; s One You With by Stills & Nash, Border Song by Elton John, Let It Be by The Beatles and Eleanor Rigby, and Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel. This last one was a great success, but the best of his rock covers could be his transformation of the elegiac The Weight of Band into a seductive piece of country-soul full of horns, with the Duane slide guitar Allman is the gospel voice that has amplified the mysterious biblical allusions of the song.
Spirit in the Dark, 1970
Franklin was slightly undervalued in certain areas of his career. He contributed much more to the arrangements of his records than they allow credits on them. Although he wrote everything, from vocal harmonies to drum breaks, he did not receive a producer's credit until 1972. His biggest hits were usually covers, so his talent as an interpreter of the work of others overshadowed his writer's talent. The great success of his transcendent album of the 1970 Spirit in the Dark was a version of Do not Play That Song (You Lied), but could be overcome by the self-titled title track, a beautiful episodic fusion between the sacred and the profane: the sound is pure gospel , the texts suggest more earthly pleasures.
Rock Steady, 1971
Another compelling example of Franklin's writing, Rock Steady has shown how adaptable it can be. A discursive and compelling groove, driven by drums and percussion by Bernard Purdie, among others, Dr John, punctuated by beautiful replicas on the bass. Championship from everyone, from Dr Dre to Public Enemy to Outkast, has awakened the audible influence of James Brown's increasingly minimalist approach to the funk in Franklin's sound.
Precious Lord, Take My Hand / Have a Friend, 1972
The debate on Aretha Franklin's best album can last until late at night, but Amazing Grace (1972) is a strong contender. A double live gospel album that combined traditional songs with the covers of Wholy Holy by Marvin Gaye and You & # 39; ll Never Walk Alone, and recorded in a church in Los Angeles in front of a congregation that included Mick Jagger, could represent the his greatest vocal performance. For a measure of how powerful it is, the mixture of Prezioso Lord, Take My Hand – a song he had recorded on his first album in 1956 – and Carole King's You Got Got a Friend takes a bit to beat: six minutes of music that even the busier atheist will struggle to remain impassive.
Something You Can Feel, 1976
Franklin's career had been in commercial and artistic decline for a couple of years: a 1973 cover by Stevie Wonder & # 39; s Until You Come Back to Me ( That & # 39; s What I & # 39; m Gonna Do) was the last success of its imperial phase, 1975's You were an out-and-out flop. He worked on Curtis Mayfield, who came with the soundtrack to the film Sparkle. If the MO sounds trivial – Franklin has simply re-sung the tracks made in the film by Irene "Fame" Cara, among others – the results were often exceptional. Apparently part of the repertoire of the girls' group of the 60s in the heart of Sparkle's history, Something He Can Feel is a marvelous song, too well written and arranged discreetly to look like a pastiche.
It will be better a little & # 39 ;, 1979
The Diva is almost universally insulted as the nadir of the Franklin years with the Atlantic records: it is his best-selling album of the era, an attempt to get on board the bandwagon of the disco so late that it came in the middle of the nightclub kickback. But it's not the whole story. First of all, a lot of disco material is better than its reputation suggests; for another, between the fourth floor beats and an ordered orchestration, there are a series of hard funk tracks, including a ferocious version of It's Get a Bit Better by Lalomie Washburn: proof that, although his music had lost the protection that marked his golden age of 1967-73, Franklin could never be erased.
United Together, 1980
Franklin purists tend to curl their noses in their first albums of the 80s and producers Arif Mardin and Luther Vandross. And while it is true, the production of Franklin's albums during that period tends to be very lucid – Love All the Hurt Away (1981) sees it supported by the titans of the yacht-rock Toto – and you have to dig considerably deeper for the gold compared to the previous decade is certainly present. It is not to be avoided that United Together is a great ballad MOR, somewhere in the It & # 39; s My Turn region of Diana Ross and a world away from Do Right Woman, Do Right Man, but Franklin he sings to death.
Sweet Bitter Love, 1985
Who & # 39; s Zoomin & # 39; Who was a concerted and successful effort to make Franklin a platinum-selling star in the mid-1980s, full of exuberant successes – not least the fantastic Freeway of Love – and duets with Eurythmics. But on the other side there was a cover of a ballad by Van McCoy that Franklin first attempted in the mid-1960s. C & # 39; is a very hard demo version of the Rare & Unreleased Recordings compilation of the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul. The orchestral arrangement eliminates some sides, but its vocal performances are fantastic and the song is a powerful link to its roots between the drum machines and the inclinations of pop.
Holdin & # 39; On, 2003
was spasmodic and artistically irregular. The hip-hop influencer Rose Is Still to Rose and Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics of 2014, home to a pop-reggae cover by Alicia Keys & # 39; s No One, had the their moments, but there was the feeling that she was back where she started at Columbia, trying punctually on styles that did not fit her. His most consistent album could be the So Damn Happy inspired by the new soul. It includes this collaboration of Mary J Blige, in which Franklin's voice clashed against the harmonious composition.
What has been done YAll, 2007
Afflicted by health problems in his later years, Aretha Franklin was nevertheless still able to turn out musically. Sometimes he did it in full view of the media, as evidenced by his extraordinary performance (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2015. And sometimes he did it in the most unlikely places. Jewels in the Crown was simply a compiled obligatory compilation of Franklin's duets, but it contained this: a crude, initial, extremely funky collaboration with John Legend that could be the best thing he has recorded in his last two decades.