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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Aretha Franklin: The Tender, The Moving, The Swinging


1) Don't Cry, Baby; 2) Try A Little Tenderness; 3) I Apologize; 4) Without The One You Love; 5) Look For The Silver Lining; 6) I'm Sitting On Top Of The World; 7) Just For A Thrill; 8) God Bless The Child; 9) I'm Wandering; 10) How Deep Is The Ocean; 11) I Don't Know You Anymore; 12) Lover Come Back To Me.

More fuel from the Great American Songbook. If you love Irving Berlin, Al Hoffman, Ray Hen­derson and their co-workers, you will love this, because, after all, Aretha truly worked her ass off on these numbers, and Columbia's session musicians were no sissy amateurs either. But, as far as I can tell, this time around she is not even covering the cream of the cream — and it had to take Otis Redding to bring out the hidden potential of 'Try A Little Tenderness'.

Side one, for me, does not even begin until the last song, when Aretha kicks up a cute little rum­pus on 'I'm Sitting On Top Of The World'. Side two is significantly better, with two Billie Holi­day classics ('God Bless The Child' and 'Lover Come Back To Me') performed quite convincing­ly and Lil Armstrong/Ray Charles' 'Just For A Thrill' that does not compare so well to Ray's smoky version, but does not spoil it with extra syrup at least.

Still, while the album pushes dangerously close to representing her nadir stage on Columbia, no record featuring a young, fresh, enthusiastic (let alone tender, moving, swinging) Aretha Franklin can be truly bad; when she unleashes the full power of her range and phrasing ('I'm Wandering'), she can take one's breath away even by means of the Songbook — an ability that the manneris­tic, overbearing «soul divas» of today have either lost or caused to mutate in quite a sacrilegious way. Thumbs down, but only because better days were soon to come.

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