ARETHA FRANKLIN: ARETHA (1961)
1) Won't Be Long; 2) Over The Rainbow; 3) Love Is The Only Thing; 4) Sweet Lover; 5) All Night Long; 6) Who Needs You?; 7) Right Now; 8) Are You Sure; 9) Maybe I'm A Fool; 10) It Ain't Necessarily So; 11) (Blue) By Myself; 12) Today I Sing The Blues.
In the end, she just sings a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Show tunes, ballads, Gershwin arias, a little gospel, a little urban blues, and a couple new compositions by J. Leslie McFarland (the guy who wrote 'Stuck On You' — the fun song that almost single-handedly ruined Elvis' reputation as a rocker after his homecoming). In the process, she is being backed by the Ray Bryant combo, a big band with a big style, but no memorable face of its own.
Still, whenever the songs are at least semi-decent on their own, Aretha's fresh, full, and finally well-recorded 19-year old voice injects them with power-a-plenty. McFarland's modest pop rocker 'Won't Be Long', opening the record on a particularly energetic note, is easily the best of the bunch, but her take on 'It Ain't Necessarily So' is not far behind, and I must say that this is the first time ever I have not cringed at somebody singing 'Over The Rainbow', simply because Aretha never knew the meaning of cheap sentimentality, and, although there is a down side to her shrillness and tenseness — if you breathe it long enough, it may start drilling your skull from the inner side — fairly often, it takes the corn right out of the cornball, replacing it with ass-kicking.
There is a frequent tendency to put down Aretha's entire
For the record, the album is, in general, more easily found as The Great Aretha Franklin: The First 12 Sides, under which title it was re-released by