The queen of soul
John Hammond couldn’t repeat with Aretha Franklin what he had pulled off with Billie Holiday and Bob Dylan. This was his only big failure, in a way…
At Columbia (label), the producer felt he needed to turn her into a jazz, or even pop singer, while Jerry Wrexler knew full well that eternal soul would be the only way for the charismatic singer from Memphis. After signing her on Atlantic in 1967, after she had strung together a dozen unsuccessful albums for Columbia, Wrexler knew he had to send her to his native South to have her record with some of the local greats in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, in Rick Hall’s studio.
The results were immediate, and with I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) recorded on January 24th, 1967, the gamble had already paid off! Wrexler understood that Aretha was a gospel artist first and foremost, and that he had to use that DNA and mix it with contemporary rhythm’n’blues, blues, and soul music. What followed, if we put it simply, was the greatest chapter in soul music history. The singer released a handful of albums recorded in New York, in Atlantic’s studios, where the whole gang from Muscle Shoals joined her. As its name suggests, this 34-title compilation features all her singles recorded between 1967 and 1970 and some handpicked tracks from her albums I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) (1967), Aretha Arrives (1967), Lady Soul (1968), Aretha Now (1968), Soul ’69 (1969), This Girl’s In Love With You (1970) and Spirit In The Dark (1970). Absolutely brilliant.
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