ARETHA FRANKLIN: I NEVER LOVED A MAN THE WAY I LOVE YOU (1967)
1) Respect; 2) Drown In My Own Tears; 3) I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You); 4) Soul Serenade; 5) Don't Let Me Lose This Dream; 6) Baby, Baby, Baby; 7) Dr. Feelgood (Love Is A Serious Business); 8) Good Times; 9) Do Right Woman, Do Right Man; 10) Save Me; 11) A Change Is Gonna Come.
One does not need to go much further than the three funky guitar notes that open 'Respect', against a background of big brawny brass, to understand that things have changed. The first two things that the new deal with
The original hit, the one that clearly indicated how well Aretha and
About 'Respect', Otis Redding, while performing the song in concert during the last year of his life, would always mention the «little girl who took it away from me», although in quite a friendly manner. He was right, too: singing it from the feminine perspective, Aretha turned it into the women's-rights anthem for her epoch, not to mention the fact that, for Otis, it was simply one more memorable, but hardly outstanding, hit in a long series of classics, whereas for Aretha it was really the song that made her, and even today, when you listen to it, it is easy to understand how she must have known this would be the song that would make her — and how everyone assisted her so well in that knowledge, starting from her sisters with their brilliant vocal echoes and ending with King Curtis' sax break. Oh, and the newly added bridge, and the vaguely obscene "sock it to me sock it to me sock it to me" — is this the first time the phrase appears in a pop song? If not the first, it is easily the best.
There is the usual complaint to be applied: Aretha does not stand up much for diversity, and all of the material, no matter how different in melody or mood, gets the standard
Understandably, though, material like 'Drown In My Own Tears' works better as a curio than as a soul classic; but when the songs actually do deal with the issue of power, they are immortal. 'Respect' and 'I Never Loved A Man' are clear highlights, but so is Aretha's self-penned 'Dr. Feelgood', where she finds the love she needs to be OK with her (poor, poor Dr. Feelgood, whoever he is), and Cooke's 'A Change Is Gonna Come' — no questions asked about that one.
The album contains no obvious filler; some cuts are stronger, some weaker, but the album was designed as a solid blast, and Aretha jumps in it with the same fervor she demonstrated on her first Columbia record, except that, this time, the fervor is not wasted or dissipated on syrupy strings and corny oldies. Even the composition of the record — wisely kicking off with the soul aggression of 'Respect' and closing things with the epic conclusion of 'Change' — deserves an unequivocal thumbs up from the brain department, and as for the heart, well, if Aretha Franklin is OK with you as a source of inspiration, there is no way the heart could feel disappointed with this particular record.