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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Aretha Franklin: The Electrifying Aretha Franklin


1) You Made Me Love You; 2) I Told You So; 3) Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody; 4) Nobody Like You; 5) Exactly Like You; 6) It's So Heartbreakin'; 7) Rough Lover; 8) Blue Holiday; 9) Just For You; 10) That Lucky Old Sun; 11) I Surrender, Dear; 12) Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive.

By the time of Aretha's second album on Columbia, it was pretty obvious that Columbia was ste­ering her in all the wrong directions. There are people who can work wonders with glitzy show tunes — Ray Charles, for instance — and there are people who can't. That Aretha, per se and by default, is an electrifying kind of person is undeniable, but most of these songs are like rubber, completely incapable of conducting her electricity.

Again, John McFarland comes to the rescue, contributing several original compositions, of which 'I Told You So' is a likeable pop shuffle and 'Rough Lover' the closest thing to a forgotten classic, swinging with fervor and perfectly tailored for the young queen's aggressive stride. Clearly, Mc­Farland was «getting» Aretha better than anyone else in the management, and, even though he was hardly above writing sappy ballads for her as well, his eventual removal from the pro­cee­dings was just another in an endless series of marketing mistakes on Columbia's part.

So, 'Rough Lover' rocks hard; the rest is a test — a test to see if Aretha's determination and exu­berance will prevail over the shadow of Hoagy Carmichael and Bing Crosby. I do not find that it does, but if you happen to love show tunes regardless of the way they are done, this can be a nice experience. After all, as Harold Arlen tells us towards the end, we gotta 'accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, but don't mess with Mr. In-Between'. I do feel tempted to say that messing with Mr. In-Between is exactly the kind of thing that's going on this record, because otherwise I just can't bring myself to eliminate the negative, no matter how hard I try.

Thumbs down, not even because I cannot stomach Bing Crosby (that happens to be my personal problem), but be­cau­se I cannot see any rational reason behind Aretha Franklin doing Bing Crosby. At least Pat Boone singing heavy metal had a bizarre novelty ring to it. This one just sucks in the good old plainly boring way.

1 comment:

  1. I'd love you to review Boone's metal album - I immensely enjoyed Smoke on the Water (with a Blackmore solo!), Enter Sandman, Holy Diver and Crazy Train.