ARETHA FRANKLIN: ‘Original Album Series Vol. 2’ (Rhino)

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This second, five-album volume chronicling the Atlantic Records’ tenure of the ‘Queen of Soul’ kicks off with ‘Aretha Arrives,’ the diva’s second LP for the company co-founded by Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson in 1947. It followed in the wake of her tumultuous, groundbreaking 1967 Atlantic debut LP, ‘I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You’ (which can be found on the first volume that profiles Aretha’s career in the ‘Original Album Series’). With highlights including a sassy revamp of the Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’ and the US chart topper, ‘Baby I Love You,’ it convincingly illustrates that vocally, Aretha Franklin was an irresistible force of nature.

The singer’s first European sojourn is captured on the 1968 live album, ‘Aretha In Paris,’ which was recorded at the Olympia Theatre in front of an ecstatic French audience. It was followed up by ‘Soul ’69,’ a blues-oriented collection that didn’t yield any big hits but was nevertheless packed with stellar performances, among them a distinctive take on Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ ‘Tracks Of My Tears.’ A year later, 1970’s splendid ‘This Girl’s In Love With You’ yielded a clutch of big hits, including the brilliant ‘Call Me,’ ‘Share Your Love With Me,’ and a cover of The Beatles’ ‘Eleanor Rigby.’

The final album in the set is 1972’s ‘Young, Gifted and Black,’ arguably the best LP of the bunch – its highlights are the high-octane funk-groover, ‘Rock Steady,’ the delightful ‘Day Dreaming,’ the transcendent church-hued title cut, and a terrific retooling of Elton John’s ‘Border Song.’ It was an album whose variety of material and seamless marriage of gospel fervour with sass and sophistication demonstrated Aretha Franklin’s ongoing evolution as a recording artist. Five years on her from her Atlantic debut she continued to amaze and inspire with her performances, affirming that she still reigned as the ‘Queen of Soul.’ For soul fans that aren’t familiar with Aretha’s key early albums, this affordable no-frills collection provides an excellent way to make their acquaintance. Other new titles in this ongoing series focus on the work of Curtis Mayfield, Otis Redding, Randy Crawford and George Benson. 

(CW) 4/5