ARETHA FRANKLIN: RUNNIN' OUT OF FOOLS (1964)
1) Mockingbird; 2) How Glad I Am; 3) Walk On By; 4) Every Little Bit Hurts; 5) The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss); 6) You'll Lose A Good Thing; 7) I Can't Wait Until I See My Baby's Face; 8) It's Just A Matter Of Time; 9) Runnin' Out Of Fools; 10) My Guy; 11) Two Sides Of Love; 12) One Room Paradise.
Now this is fun. See, all it took was to shift the emphasis from old, rusty pop tunes to new, shinier pop tunes. When the rhythms are livelier, the strings not so overwhelming, the melodies catchier, and the singer is not struggling with the material in order to understand it, but assimilates it in an easy-going, natural way — that is when real life starts to flow.
There is nothing particularly unpredictable about these song selections: Nancy Wilson, Burt Bacharach, Smokey Robinson, Dionne Warwick, Brenda Holloway, Mary Wells, Betty Everett — Columbia made a thorough study of the big names in the last two years of the music business and unleashed all of them on Aretha, finally realizing that to waste her talents on retro-pop in a clearly changing world is spiritually and financially unhealthy. From a possible point of view, Running Out Of Fools is a turning point in
Slight, but not slothful: she understands and likes this new Motown and «para-Motown» brand of semi-pop, semi-R&B, and her interpretations of the classics are well worth judging on their own terms. Of course, she does it the Aretha way. 'Every Little Bit Hurts' used to mix tenderness, vulnerability and desperation — the way she sings 'Come back to me, I'll make you see..' turns this into a command rather than a plea. 'My Guy', when done by Mary Wells, was a sexy purr that must have made the majority of its male listeners consider competing for the guy's position; Aretha's interpretation discards the sex kitten associations and becomes a feminist stance — her "nothing in the world can keep me away from my guy" is not an oath of loyalty, it just means that the poor guy has little choice, and woe to him if he does try out any alternatives.
The choices could have been better; there is still too much emphasis on similar-sounding ballads, especially on the second side (the first one is at least redeemed with such colourful pop tunes as 'Mockingbird', 'Walk On By', and 'The Shoop Shoop Song'). But in general, the album is no better and no worse than any normal Motownish album of the era by any of Motown's great performers. Never mind that this is not at all the kind of sound with which we associate Aretha Franklin today; there is no harm in hearing her — for once, at least — applying her talents to the sounds of lightweight pop entertainers of the day, in a way, making it more heavyweight. Thumbs up.