Friday, July 17, 2015
Aretha Franklin - Who's Zoomin' Who?
Side one begins with "Freeway of Love", a song that earned Franklin a Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. As the first single, it went to number 68 in the UK (and again to number 53 upon re-release in 1986), number 11 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, number 6 in Australia, number 5 in Canada, number 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 1 on the US Billboard R&B chart. The song's signature saxophone solo was provided by Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen's E. Street Band. From the opening notes, this song always got me ready to hit the dance floor; I have many good memories of being out with friends when this one was ruling the airwaves. The nearly six minute album version even has lyrics where Franklin says '...going for an extended throw down". It was indeed! Even today, three decades later, it still puts me in a great mood just hearing it.
As the fourth single, "Another Night" went to number 67 in Australia, number 54 in the UK, number 44 in Canada, number 22 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 21 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, number 9 on the US Billboard R&B chart and number 4 on the US Billboard Dance chart. The mid-tempo tune is about coping with the loneliness of a lost lover.
"Sweet Bitter Love", the B-side to the second single, is a beautiful piano-based ballad. This is a prime example of why she is known as the Queen of Soul.
"Who's Zoomin' Who?", the second single, raced to number 38 in Australia, number 19 in Canada, number 11 in the UK, number 10 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, number 7 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 2 on the US Billboard R&B chart, and number 1 on the US Billboard Dance chart. This one too was another partying favorite of mine during my college years; I always liked its slinky verses that opened up to a confrontational chorus.
Side two starts with "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves", a duet with the Eurythmics. The female empowerment anthem was written by Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart who originally thought to record it with Tina Turner (she was unavailable); it also appeared on their 1985 album Be Yourself Tonight. As the third single, it reached number 66 on the US Billboard R&B chart, number 33 in Canada, number 18 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 15 in Australia, number 10 on the US Billboard Dance chart, and number 9 in the UK. I like the guitar riffs that Stewart laid down here; it gives the song a solid 70's funk vibe. I remember clearly how this one was popular among my female friends (of which I had many) back in college.
Time to slow it down once more. The B-side to the first single was "Until You Say You Love Me".
Franklin embraces an up-tempo Calypso rhythm on the next track. "Ain't Nobody Ever Loved You", the fifth single, went to number 94 in Canada, number 78 in the UK, number 30 on the US Billboard R&B chart, and number 9 on the US Billboard Dance chart.
Peter Wolf joins Franklin for a duet on "Push". The song has a funk guitar groove to it that is cool, and the keyboards are kicking. The bridge gets a little gothic which is sort of out there.
The album ends with "Integrity", a tune that sounds like a retooled disco number.
I am pretty sure that I owned a copy of Who's Zoomin' Who? on cassette back in 1985, bought during the time I was working a co-op in New Jersey that summer and fall. My primary motivation, of course, was the hit singles; and I'm pretty sure I spent most of the time listening to just those. It was the first and only Aretha Franklin album I had on any kind of physical media. Looking back, I rather liked all of the cuts here.
For more from Aretha Franklin, click here.