It Took a Few Listens
But I finally came to appreciate the down-tempo album and majestic voice of Arethra Franklin.
Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #83/100
I remember when I found out Prince died: I was at my house and saw it on facebook. I hadn’t listened to my regular music in years, preferring chill/new age stuff while writing, reading, or studying. The last year was nothing but school, so my Amazon Music Library was the equivalent of cobwebs. I pulled up his discography and immediately started crying. Each song reminded me of something.
I didn’t necessarily have the same relationship with Aretha, but her recent passing still had impact: songs that instantly transported me to another time. Memories. Experiences. I had just turned 21. Returning after drinking at a bar for the first time (legally, I should add), I listened to all of her greatest hits, soaking it up.
I’ve been listening to this album for weeks, way before news of her illness was made known. Her passing made it even more poignant. While I made my mind up about the rating and what songs to highlight a while ago, I was reminded that these greats won’t be around forever.
[overview.] The album consists of 11 tracks, most of them covers. “Respect” kicks it off, and everyone with a set of ears knows that song. It set me up for a hellacious hangover, though. The other 10 tracks are subdued and low-tempo. Expecting the rest of the album to follow its leader, it took me quite a few listens to accept that it was the reverse: “Respect” is the exception.
The other 10 R&B love songs are good, just some of them are drawn out and lack a striking melody. She covers a couple of Sam Cooke songs (“Good Times” and “A Change Is Gonna Come”) which were hard for me to shake off; I preferred the originals. This is still a good album, though, with plenty of finds.
- Respect (Otis Redding)
- Drown in My Own Tears (Henry Glover)
- I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (Ronnie Shannon)
- Soul Serenade (King Curtis, Luther Dixon)
- Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream (Aretha Franklin, Ted White)
- Baby, Baby, Baby (Aretha Franklin, Carolyn Franklin)
- Dr. Feelgood (Aretha Franklin, Ted White)
- Good Times (Sam Cooke)
- Do Right Woman, Do Right Man (Dan Penn, Chips Moman)
- Save Me (Aretha Franklin, Carolyn Franklin)
- A Change is Gonna Come (Sam Cooke)
[best track.] Respect
No commentary needed.
[best track – runner up.] Do Right Woman, Do Right Man
The best of the slow songs, “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” is about infidelity. She juxtaposes a do-right-all-DAY-woman with a do-right-all-NIGHT-man, alluding to night time being when adultery takes place. The sparse piano and drums feature Aretha Franklin’s singing with backup gospel choir.
“A woman’s only human
Yes, you should understand
She’s not just a plaything
She’s flesh and blood just like her man.”
[best hidden gem.] Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream
An exquisite hidden gem! I’m not sure I would classify this as bossa nova, but there is something going on with the beat that is different. Actually written by Aretha, it shows that she was not just a voice but could write as well. It is the infusion of energy I yearned for in the middle of crawling love songs.
[conclusion.] What a solid album, if even a little unbalanced. “Respect” would be hard for any album to catch up to; that song will be eternally played. That put a heavy expectation on the other material which took me a while to get over. Thankfully, I took time to appreciate the other tracks. Her voice powerful. Her songwriting under appreciated. You will be missed.
Aretha Franklin (March 25th, 1942 – August 16th, 2018)
Other People’s Take:
- Lyriquediscorde: “This track has always meant so much to me since the very first time I heard it.”
- altrockchick: “I Never Loved a Man the Way That I Love You is a soul music masterpiece featuring one of the greatest singers ever supported by an outstanding group of vocalists and top-tier musicians.”