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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Aretha Franklin: Laughing On The Outside


1) Skylark; 2) For All We Know; 3) Make Someone Happy; 4) I Wonder; 5) Solitude; 6) Laughing On The Outside; 7) Say It Isn't So; 8) It Will Have To Do Until The Real Thing Comes Along; 9) If Ever I Would Leave You; 10) Where Are You; 11) Mr. Ugly; 12) I Wanna Be Around.

Actually, this may be the nadir. This time around, there is not even a single lick of fire; each single tune is slow, genteel, and dominated by Mantovani-style strings. Duke Ellington's 'Soli­tude' could have been a minor standout, but its lonely trumpet is unable to beat the corniness that oozes from every pore.

It is even hard to say whether the singer herself cared as much about these songs as she did when she first crossed the threshold of Columbia's studios. She does, indeed, begin with a mini-blast of passion ('Skylark', where she spends the first two minutes winding herself up and then letting it go with a vengeance), but everything that follows is restrained and uninvolving. Oddly, this is the first album to feature an original composition — 'I Wonder (Where Are You Tonight)'; it is, how­ever, completely undistinguishable from the rest.

Albums like these need to be heard today, if only for people to understand that «generic pablum» is not a recent invention of the last twenty years or so, but was fairly persistent throughout the whole history of pop music; still, it is very painful to realize what a great talent was actually be­ing was­ted on that pablum — and at the exact time when pop music was undergoing revolutiona­ry changes. Thumbs down.

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