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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Aretha Franklin: Jump To It


1) Jump To It; 2) Love Me Right; 3) If She Don't Want Your Lovin'; 4) This Is For Real; 5) (It's Just) Your Love; 6) I Wanna Make It Up To You; 7) It's Your Thing; 8) Just My Daydream.

Dragged out of the commercial slump once again — this time, by contemporary hero Luther Van­dross. The late Luther, as we mostly remember him, was the king of the suave, the chic, the po­lish, the gloss, leading his voluntary listeners straight into the spasms of orgasm and his involun­tary ones straight into the spasms of forceful expulsion of the contents of one's stomach through the mouth, to avoid nasty words. Nevertheless, even the most professional and experienced haters of Mr. Vangloss will probably acknowledge that the man was a talented craftsman, a sort of anti-Prince, always playing it cool and safe where Mr. Nelson would take every chance — and getting immaculately good at playing safe.

The idea, I believe, was to bring Aretha fully up-to-date with the modern world — to restore her to the status of Diva, both of dance music and of power balladry, which La Diva actually flunked and Arista's early albums didn't exactly succeed in, either. So, if anything, Jump To It sounds even more Eighties than the two records before it. Sterile and calculated to the very last note, and totally fo­cused on mind-numbing repetition of its hooks: when you have "jump, jump, jump to it!" blasted in your ear four times in a row before any of the instruments start to come in, you know it's gonna make the Top 40 at least.

Trying to come up with theoretical ideas on Jump To It is a bit like coming up with a seductive description on an Ikea piece of furniture. It's smooth, it's functional, it's gonna do its thang for a few years, but it's unlikely to figure in your memories and memoirs. Oh, and it's probably going to have at least one really ugly, really annoying aspect that is going to bug you for all of its pre­sence in your house. On Jump To It, it may be the power ballads, starting with the Archangel™-appro­ved m-m-melisma (also known as the 'wo-wu-wa-we-wi' mode of singing) of 'This Is For Real' and ending with almost seven minutes of 'I Wanna Make It Up To You', Aretha's self-pen­ned apology for all the bad things she gone done to her man over the past two decades — even as it starts to finally fade away, Vandross pushes the volume levels back up to make her apologize one more time; quite embarrassing, really.

The generic dance stuff is more tolerable, but not because of any decent amount of songwriting (there isn't any) and not because of Aretha's enthusiasm in getting in the groove (I do not feel she is at her vocal best here; this whole artificial re-imaging of her image is really stifling). The good news is the slap bass playing from the ultra-talented Marcus Miller, which really gets the fingers moving — even when he is restricted to disco patterns ('Love Me Right'), he can still play around with them, giving his bass more freedom and expressivity than everything else on this album combined, including Franklin's singing. Unfortunately, for some reason, the minimalistic, bass-only karaoke version of Jump To It is still unavailable in stores, so you'll have to do your own digital editing if you want to appreciate the album's artistry without the cheese.

'Jump To It' is the only song from the record that is regularly met on compilations, but a correct compilation that wants to reflect the spirit of Aretha Franklin rather than the peak levels of her revenue should replace it with Smokey Robinson's 'Just My Daydream' — stuck at the very end, it is the perfect retro remedy against the lifeless robo-funk and corporate balladeering of the pre­vious seven numbers, the one number on which we get to hear Aretha's real voice, as the narcosis wears off a little earlier than anticipated. A pleasant piece of filler on any of her classic LPs, a soul-soothing highlight on this one — coming too late and too briefly to save it from the unavoi­dable thumbs down.

Check "Jump To It" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Jump To It" (MP3) on Amazon

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