Sunday, October 25, 2015

Aretha Franklin - Aretha

Today (October 25th) marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of Aretha, the twenty-eighth studio album from the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin. This 1980 release spent thirty weeks on the US Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 32. It also reached number 6 on the US Billboard R&B chart and won her a Grammy award for Best Female R&B Vocal.

Once more, she surrounded herself with a slew of famous musicians including Keith Richards and Ron Wood (of the Rolling Stones), Jeff Porcaro, Mike Porcaro and Steve Lukather (from Toto), Randy Jackson, David Foster, David Sanborn, Kenny G, and so many more.

Side one begins with “Come to Me”, a beautiful piano-based ballad. As the third single, it stalled at number 89 in Australia and number 84 on the US Billboard Hot 100, but it rallied to number 39 on the US Billboard R&B chart. I suspect this would have been a slow dance favorite back in the clubs at the time.

Next is a cover of Otis Redding’s 1965 hit “Can’t Turn You Loose”. I really like how she flips this blues classic around into a funky post-disco dance jam.

“United Together”, the first single, rose to number 56 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 3 on the US Billboard R&B chart. This ballad has a rich orchestration and Franklin’s signature soaring vocals.

The B-side to the first single was “Take Me With You”, a bouncy mid-tempo tune. I like the vocal harmony interplay between Franklin and her backup singers.

Following the pattern, the side closer “Whatever It Is” is another ballad.

Side two begins with a cover of the Dobbie Brothers’ 1979 hit “What a Fool Believes”. As the second single, it reached number 46 in the UK, number 39 on the US Billboard Dance chart, and number 17 on the US Billboard R&B chart. The instrumental arrangement manages to put a fresh spin on this classic with a focus on dance tune elements.

Ballad time again with “Together Again”. This one focuses on a reunion of two former lovers.

The mid-tempo “Love Me Forever” was the B-side to the second single.

“School Days”, the closing track, was also the B-side to the third single. This song has an up-beat gospel rhythm to it; I can see this having been a big production number in the concert tour for this record.

This was my first spin through on Aretha, even though I had passing familiarity with the singles from my pop radio listening days. It was a pleasant listen with a few forgotten gems.

For more from Aretha Franklin, click here.

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