Queen of Soul: The Atlantic Recordings
Description: Queen of Soul
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trumps all other collections of Aretha's recordings for Atlantic by adding dozens of album tracks to a selection of epochal singles ranging from "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)" and "Respect" to "Spanish Harlem" and "Rock Steady." Over three CDs and change--the fourth runs out of steam, as did her creative energy during the mid-to-late-'70s period it chronicles--we hear many emotional shifts: impassioned, triumphant, wistful, and always truthful about her condition and our own. --Rickey Wright
Tracklist of Queen of Soul: The Atlantic Recordings
Essential Cornerstone of any Soul collection
I know, I know, you narrow your eyes whenever you see the term "essential," in an amazon review. Well, hate to tell you but it doesn't get any more essential than this. This may be the gold standard of Box sets. Better than my Joy Division, my Miles, my Coltrane, and my Sonny Rollins sets. By heaps and piles!
As far as I'm concerned: It's Billie, Nina and Aretha. The Mother, The Daughter and The Holy Spirit of Soul. I love Etta (both Ettas). I love Mahalia, and I love Bessie. I swear by Ruth Brown. Mabel Mercer and Roberta Flack- Love 'em to death. But one gives credit where it's due: at her absolute prime, Aretha sounds, well- PRIMAL. Like her voice has become the avatar of Athena, Artemis and Aphrodite- all rolled into one. The woman's pipes are sooooo grand as to be almost inhuman- yet tempered with such human warmth, tenderness, humility... Her voice does things to me, and unless you're a robot in disguise or one of the walking dead- it will to you too... So. Forget the label, "soul," and all the baggage it carries- just take the word at face value: If you possess a soul- you will love this. This is the kind of music that unites generations- gives all cultures a common ground.
This collection is a couple steps short of being 'comprehensive,' but still pulls off being definitive. It's missing a few tracks that the hardcore fans will kick up a fuss over... Still: 4 CDs. 88 tracks. Excellent sound (most of the earliest songs are preserved in mono: a good thing), the remastering is phenomenal. Great packaging, the 80+ page booklet has interviews with everyone, it's a sweet read. Then there's the smalll fact that you're getting All her Atlantic hits and (probably) the cream of her entire Atlantic output: albums, singles, B-sides, all of it (and that's saying something). I defy you to bat an eye at this.
You'll want this over the Columbia Comp. Some go for the early 60's Aretha, but I feel I can say this without reservation: her individuality blossomed at Atlantic. It was with her move to Atlantic (back when the likes of Jerry Wexler, David Ritz, Dave Marsh and Tommy Dowd were workin it) that she began to earn the apropos moniker, "Queen of Soul." At Columbia, one always feels like she's straining against the pop arrangements. She's trapped, yearning to be set free. The Columbia producers cramped her innate tendency to do what gospel singers do best: let loose. That's just what she does over the course of these four fantastic CDs. Atlantic gave Aretha the license to use her wings. We all get to some along for the ride.
You really don't have a reason not to get this. If you feel that nigh-60 dollars is too much to drop... Well, the BMG people (yeah, the ones that mail out those annoying CD forms that you always forget to fill in and return on time and then you have some crap you never wanted in your maibox to ambush you) usually has a sweet half-off policy for all box-sets. They offer this for about 25 $'s, which is actually about 33$'s, once you add the shipping and tax. Just so's you know.
PS. Jimmy Smith died today. RIP
Of course, I love Aretha Franklin & am very grateful to my buddy who gave me this boxed set as gift. Being the perfectionist I am, I do have some complaints, so please bear with me :
1) Where is "Lean On Me"? This was a non-album B side of "Spanish Harlem". This is not the Bill Withers song, but a Van McCoy compostion. Surely they could have included it. Fortunately I have a turntable & managed to salvage the single out of my collection. FYI - Melba Moore also does a great version of this song which is worth checking out.
2) Disc 4 is a little uneven. Even a great artist like Aretha Franklin put out some less than great music. Her "5 for the DeeJay" is a strange song which for some strange reason creeps me out whenever I hear it. It sounds almost like a parody of her classic style. Sorry, I'm probably overanalyzing things here. As long as they were putting her later stuff on the set, why not include at a couple of numbers from her last 2 albums "Almighty Fire" & "La Diva". I know that the material is supposed to be horrible, but it would have been good just for the shock value. At least, I would have been interested in hearing the Skip Scarborough material which considering the man's other work, couldn't have been that awful!
3) Some of the additions that I suggested could have taken the place of some of the inclusions. Her version of "Somewhere" is nice but not essential to me. Also, I know I'll get into hot water for this one. I know that the duet with Ray Charles must have been wonderous in concert, but for some reason doesn't come off that well on record. Of course, with the recent death of Mr. Charles its inclusion is fitting & proper.
4)I love Gospel music but the inclusion of the one Gospel song sounds somewhat out of place on this collection. It might have been a better idea to put together a Gospel collection, which I think there has been in the last few years. Possibly, her version of Marvin Gaye's "Wholly Holy" might have been a better choice. I know! I know! I'm being very picky!
Okay I better say some things I really enjoy about this collection:
1) The numbers from the Curtis Mayfield produced "Sparkle" are absolute gems & deserve more attention that they have gotten.
2) The beautiful "Without Love" co-written by sister Carolyn is a very moving number which almost brings me to tears.
3) Her "Young Gifted & Black/Spirit in the Dark" Period is very well covered here - including some awesome cover versions such as "Spanish Harlem", "Don't Play that Song", "You're All I Need to Get By" & a stunning version of Elton John's "Border Song" that totally blows away EJ's version. During this time, she was also writing more of her own songs which, again, are stunning - "Call Me", "Daydreaming", "All the King's Horses", etc. I can't remember if she wrote "One Way Ticket", but it is another lost gem!!!
4) Of course, her "Lady Soul" period (the 1st 4 Atlantic albums) is covered well. Some of the lesser heard tracks really stand out like ballads such as "Prove It" & "Baby Baby Baby". Of course, Carolyn Franklin's composition "Ain't No Way" still blows me away every time I hear it. By the way that is Cissy Houston (Whitney's mom) hitting those stratospheric high notes in the background. I have heard DJs incorrectly say that it was Carolyn doing the singing there.
5) The "Soul 69/This Girl's in Love..." period is interesting. Some critics seemed to savage the stuff from "Soul 69" which is actually quite nice. Again, why couldn't they have included her version of "This Girl's in Love..."? Oops! I'm complaining again. Sorry!
So, anyway, for anyone who is still reading this rambling review, I hope I'm forgiven for my criticisms. I do love Aretha! When an artist is as talented as she is, I tend to expect absolute perfection. Anyway, enjoy!
P.S. If you don't have the bucks to lay down for this collection & don't have nice friends who will give you a gift copy, you should check out some of her individual collections like "Aretha Arrives" "Lady Soul" or "Never Loved A Man". Also there are some budget priced collections which include her well-known & lesser known material, and they are the original recordings - not re-recordings!
Queen of Soul: The Atlantic Recordings ~ Aretha Franklin
This collection of her atlantic recordings is stupendous and amazing. Franklin is a tremendous artist with mega super hits such as think, respect, and many more. The book-let is very nice with high end photographs of Franklin and the covers of all her albums that she made for atlantic. There is so much to like about her and her amazing ability as a vocalist, muisician, lyricist and performer. The front cover photo is very nice with Franklin mayb e in her 30's or later, I have no idea, but it is a very nice photo and she looks great. Gotta love those tacky sunglasses on her 1975 release you. This is a very nice compilation that one should not miss.