ARETHA FRANKLIN: LOVE ALL THE HURT AWAY (1981)
1) Love All The Hurt Away; 2) Hold On! I'm Comin'; 3) Living In The Streets; 4) There's A Star For Everyone; 5) You Can't Always Get What You Want; 6) It's My Turn; 7) Truth And Honesty; 8) Search On; 9) Whole Lot Of Me; 10) Kind Of Man.
The only good thing that can, overall, characterize these early Eighties Aretha albums is that the Arista people did try not only to modernize her, but to «maturate» her as well. That photo on the front sleeve, for instance — she hadn't looked that stylish or genuine since at least 1970. And the music is always deeper, denser, and darker than on her last Atlantic albums, dropping the giggly disco crap in favour of bombastic adult contemporary... crap.
Half of this album is devoted to instantly forgettable «diva ballads», which, by then, she could probably sing under deep narcosis without any difference, and the other half is primitive electro-pop that would disgust Michael Jackson, let alone Prince. The title track is a duet with George Benson, a first for Aretha — never before did anyone dare to market her singles on a double bill, and, fortunately, this one sold so miserably that she never went on the «Duet Circuit for Pop Dinosaurs» that made many a good artist into a marketing curio. But the fact that it is a duet at least makes it a standout number.
Well, actually, another standout number is the dance version of 'You Can't Always Get What You Want', a good candidate for the «Top 100 Butchered Classics» of all time list, but also a shocking distraction from the interminable boredom of it all. How I wish to have been able to get inside the mind of the person who came up with the idea of re-recording the song on a foundation of slap bass and cheap synths... then maybe I don't. At least the similar rearrangement of Sam & Dave's 'Hold On! I'm Comin' has this classy brass melody arrangement, putting it closer to the likable rearrangement of 'Can't Turn You Loose' than the Stones' killer job.
None of the other songs are even worth talking about. If you do not have a specific alergy to all that dance crap and deep-soul-by-the-pound as they used to make them in the Eighties, it's all listenable, but nobody gave a damn when writing these songs and Aretha probably didn't give a damn when she sang them, although, her being a professional and all, I couldn't say that she is slacking: the vocals are as powerful as ever, throughout. But great singing from Franklin is a given, so I just give it a thumbs down for all the evil people who had the nerve to spit on it. (For the record, evil people included several members of Toto — throw on a couple hundred thousand years on the frying-pan, please. Just for justice sake: they probably won't even notice, what with the already accumulated several billion centuries for mass spiritual genocide; I'd rather listen to Love All The Hurt Away over and over again than having to repair my ears from 'Rosanna' just one more time).