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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Aretha Franklin: Aretha In Paris


1) Satisfaction; 2) Don't Let Me Lose This Dream; 3) Soul Serenade; 4) Night Life; 5) Baby, I Love You; 6) Groo­vin'; 7) (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman; 8) Come Back Baby; 9) Dr. Feelgood; 10) Since You've Been Gone; 11) I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You); 12) Chain Of Fools; 13) Respect.

Franklin ended her second big year at Atlantic with this live album, unfortunately, completely overshadowed two years later with Fillmore West. Producer Jerry Wexler hated its guts, and probably did not sleep well at night until his «mistake» was finally corrected at the Fillmore — by whisking off Aretha's regular live backing band and replacing it with King Curtis'. Consequ­e­ntly, In Paris mostly got bad publicity from the very start, and mostly continues doing so.

True enough, the musicians that accompanied Aretha on tour were hardly a match for the much more seasoned pros at Atlantic Studios. The term «well-oiled» does not work too well in applica­tion to this outfit; no single musician can hold his own against Aretha's power, and you can hear that perfectly exemplified during the very, very lame sax break in 'Respect' which is there only because the structure of the tune requires it, not because it ever struck the sax player that this might be a strong counterpoint to the vocals. And, considering that for the most part they stick to the original arrangements and running lengths — with the exception of several faster tunes which they rush through at a ridiculously accelerated rate — this makes most of the tunes sound like no­tably or slightly inferior copies of their studio correlates.

Nevertheless, Aretha herself is in excellent form, ready as hell to show them Parisian sybarites what that sweaty R'n'B sound is all about. It's all about the singing, first and foremost; if you do not make out much distinction between the complex, fluid bass playing of Jerry Jemmott and the less advanced, «merely competent» playing of Rodderick Hicks, you might not even notice the big difference until you start seriously focusing on it, or ascribe it to the extra demands of playing in a live environment. But the lady herself is wound up to the max, and shifts effortlessly between tough R'n'B, slow moody blues, and sweet sweet ballads.

Most of the big hits are here — 'Baby, I Love You', 'Chain Of Fools', 'Natural Woman', 'Respect' etc. — along with minor, but decent tracks, making this both a good overview of her first and best years at Atlantic and an important — in fact, the only important — historical document of a «pre-Seventies» Aretha, still fresh and somewhat innocent and not yet spoiled by any excesses that normally accompany fame and fortune. Obviously not essential, but nothing to avoid, either.

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