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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Aretha Franklin: Take It Like You Give It


1) Why Was I Born; 2) I May Never Get To Heaven; 3) Tighten Up Your Tie, Button Up Your Jacket; 4) Her Little Heart Went To Loveland; 5) Lee Cross; 6) Take It Like You Give It; 7) Only The One You Love; 8) Deeper; 9) Re­member Me; 10) Land Of Dreams; 11) A Little Bit Of Soul.

Aretha's last album for Columbia is a terminally dark horse that cannot even be found in some of her discographies, and even the info on its year of release is contradictory — some say '66, some say early '67. Considering that it only runs for a bare twenty-five minutes, and that at least some of the tracks date from much earlier sessions — e. g., 'Lee Cross', recorded in 1964 (which is why we find it as a bonus track on Unforgettable), but not released officially until three years later — it is not difficult to understand the slightness with which it had been treated.

A pity, because it is easily one of the best LPs Aretha ever cut (or, rather, had herself cut) for her original label. There are as many as five upbeat, uptempo numbers that give Aretha ample room to unleash her temper, of which the already discussed 'Lee Cross' is only one highlight; the other one is 'Tighten Up Your Tie', where she tells her man to beat it like only she can, and the nicely moralizing title track where she tells her man to balance his gives and takes more convincingly than any non-musical spokesperson for women's lib.

Both 'Lee Cross' and 'Take It', by the way, are credited to Ted White, her manager and first hus­band, and he also contributes the successful slow-burner 'Land Of Dreams', a lush ballad that somehow transcends the standard clichés with its unusual piano parts and moody backup vocals. If not a classic, it is still a far more interesting and sincerely moving track than, uh, 'Her Little Heart Went To Loveland' — the inclusion of which shows that, even at their most intelligent, the people on Columbia were still unable to properly distinguish material that emphasized all of Are­tha's talent from material that did nothing except extinguish that talent.

It is a little ironic that the last track on the album and, thus, the last track from Aretha to be issued on Columbia, bears the title 'A Little Bit Of Soul' — she spent half of the Sixties on that label im­plicitly begging for exactly that, and the «Columbians» spent the same time by understanding her way too literally, giving her a tiny bit of soul every now and then to whet our appetites, and not a crumb more. Perhaps 'Much Too Little Bit Of Soul' would be a more understandable title. Re­gardless of the irony, though, Take It Like You Give It, recently released on CD together with Soul Sister, is well worth keeping an eye on, and is a perfect «pre-shadower» of what would very soon put Ms. Franklin on and over the top; so a moderate thumbs up.

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