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Aretha and Nothing But Aretha

By Marc Zisman |

For the first time, the entire career of the Queen of Soul is impeccably compiled in an anthology of more than 80 tracks, many of them previously unreleased. A must-have.

Another box set dedicated to Aretha Franklin! Except that the box in question is a first because it gathers recordings of her entire career, from her beginnings with Columbia to the golden age with Atlantic, until her last years with Arista. In 81 tracks, 19 of which are previously unreleased, and a dozen not appearing on any of her official albums, the aptly named ARETHA thus offers a global vision (presented chronologically) of the greatest soul singer...

The Columbia period, sometimes unfairly criticised, emphasises the blues side of the young woman who, without offering a real aesthetic revolution, offers vocal power that takes guts, a voice that is already quite unique. There's even an earlier gold nugget here, the 1956 single for J.V.B. Records, Never Grow Old/You Grow Closer.

In 1967, producer Jerry Wexler signed Aretha to Atlantic to push her to return to her gospel roots which he would package in a contemporary sound. This 1967-1979 period is the most important one in this box set which also includes My Kind of Town (Detroit Is) and Try a Little Tenderness, 1966 demos sent to Wexler, as well as beautiful alternative versions of the hits Chain of Fools, Rock Steady and Spanish Harlem or live versions of Baby I Love You and Don't Play That Song, not forgetting the famous version of Think recorded for the Blues Brothers soundtrack.

ARETHA also shows that the post Atlantic period is not so insignificant because even when she slaloms between funk and disco, Aretha Franklin remains a supernatural force.


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