Over the last few months bbr records (Big Break Records) have released some great archive albums – many of them from the Arista catalogue. One of the very best is Aretha Franklin’s wonderful ‘Jump To It’ long player. Originally released in 1982 when Aretha’s career (and personal life) was at a low ebb, the album was, of course, helmed by Luther Vandross who used all the tricks in his armoury to revitalize the career of a singer who’d he’d idolized since his teens. Those tactics included penning some great songs, bringing in outside material from tried and tested sources (including Sam Dees and Smokey Robinson), using his usual, successful team of musicians and backing singers and drafting in some big names to help as required – they include Darlene Love, Erma Franklin and The Four Tops.
The Tops are there on one of the album’s undoubted highlights – the Aretha-penned ballad ‘I Wanna Make It Up To You’. Here Levi Stubbs duets with the Queen and together they smoulder magnificently – and if that wasn’t enough veteran arranger Paul Riser’s on hand to make it even more memorable. The track was overlooked on original release as the critics and the fans, naturally, focused on the big singles – ‘Jump To It’, the similarly paced ‘Love Me Right’ and the ballad ‘This Is For Real’. And, you know, that’s the beauty of this reissue and others like it… it gives you the opportunity to discover material that might have been casually overlooked or just skimmed over on original release. Here things like ‘If She Don’t Want Your Lovin” (a Sam Dees song), Smokey Robinson’s ‘Just My Daydreamin” (the writer’s response to Aretha’s earlier ‘Daydreamin”) and a cover of the Isleys’ ‘It’s Your Thing’ (a typical Vandross “reconstruction” job) are all great cuts and add to the album’s overall attraction. And yes, the set, doesn’t reach the soulful majesty of some of Aretha’s Atlantic masterpieces but it’s still a quite excellent collection – enhanced in this reissue by five bonus cuts (singles and 12″ versions of the singles) and a thoughtful essay from American soul writer J Matthew Cobb.