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Soul - Released December 21, 1993 | Rhino Atlantic

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Soul - Released March 22, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

Distinctions The Unusual Suspects - The Qobuz Standard
Among Aretha aficionados, Amazing Grace has long been considered one of her high-water marks, since it captured her glorious return to her gospel roots in front of a live audience. The original 1972 album contained just 14 tracks, culled from two live performances with the Southern California Community Choir, Ken Lupper, and the Rev. James Cleveland at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Fans have long wished for the release of the two complete concerts -- which is exactly what Rhino's Amazing Grace: The Complete Recordings gives them. Over the course of two discs and 29 tracks, every performance Franklin gave that January, along with comments from Cleveland and solo tracks from Lupper and the Choir, is unfurled, and if anything, the music is even more impressive when heard complete and unedited. Of course, the nature of this set makes it of interest primarily to dedicated fans, but they'll likely be delighted by the entire package. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Soul - Released October 6, 1992 | Rhino Atlantic

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Soul - Released December 21, 1993 | Rhino Atlantic

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The first album that represented signs of stagnation. Aretha Franklin had issued two excellent albums in 1974, but in 1975 just didn't get enough quality songs to flesh out You. While she still put everything into them, often salvaging dismal lyrics and awkward production, Franklin only equaled past glories on the song "It Only Happens (When I Look At You)." Otherwise, it was a case of wonderful vocals but little else. ~ Ron Wynn
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Soul - Released July 13, 1993 | Rhino Atlantic

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Soul - Released December 21, 1993 | Rhino Atlantic

Distinctions The Unusual Suspects - The Qobuz Standard
It's nearly impossible to single out any of Aretha Franklin's early-'70s albums for Atlantic as being her best, particularly given the breadth of her output during this era. In terms of albums rather than singles, it's probably her strongest era, and if you count live albums like Amazing Grace, choosing a standout or a favorite record isn't any easier. Yet of this stunning era, Young, Gifted and Black certainly ranks highly among her studio efforts, with many arguing that it may be her greatest. And with songs like "Rock Steady," that may be a valid argument. But there's much more here than just a few highlights. If you really want to go song by song, you'd be hard-pressed to find any throwaways here -- this is quite honestly an album that merits play from beginning to end. You have upbeat songs like the aforementioned "Rock Steady" that will get you up out of your seat moving and grooving, yet then you also have a number of more introspective songs that slow down the tempo and are more likely to relax than rouse. And if that wide spectrum of moods isn't enough reason to celebrate this album, you get some unlikely songs like a take on "The Long and Winding Road." Plus, you also have to keep in mind that Franklin was in her prime here, not only in terms of voice but also in terms of confidence -- you can just feel her exuding her status as the best of the best. Furthermore, her ensemble of musicians competes with any that she had worked with on previous albums. So even if this isn't the greatest Aretha Franklin album of the early '70s, it's certainly a contender, the sort of album that you can't go wrong with. ~ Jason Birchmeier
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Soul - Released December 9, 1994 | Rhino Atlantic

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Soul - Released June 20, 1995 | Rhino Atlantic

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
While the inclusion of "Respect" -- one of the truly seminal singles in pop history -- is in and of itself sufficient to earn I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You classic status, Aretha Franklin's Atlantic label debut is an indisputable masterpiece from start to finish. Much of the credit is due to producer Jerry Wexler, who finally unleashed the soulful intensity so long kept under wraps during her Columbia tenure; assembling a crack Muscle Shoals backing band along with an abundance of impeccable material, Wexler creates the ideal setting to allow Aretha to ascend to the throne of Queen of Soul, and she responds with the strongest performances of her career. While the brilliant title track remains the album's other best-known song, each cut on I Never Loved a Man is touched by greatness; covers of Ray Charles' "Drown in My Own Tears" and Sam Cooke's "Good Times" and "A Change Is Gonna Come" are on par with the original recordings, while Aretha's own contributions -- "Don't Let Me Lose This Dream," "Baby, Baby, Baby," "Save Me," and "Dr. Feelgood (Love Is a Serious Business)" -- are perfectly at home in such lofty company. A soul landmark. ~ Jason Ankeny
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Soul - Released December 21, 1993 | Rhino Atlantic

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Soul - Released May 1, 2012 | Rhino Atlantic

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Aretha Franklin disproved the notion that once you leave the church, you can't go back. She returned in triumph on this 1972 double album, making what might be her greatest release ever in any style. Her voice was chilling, making it seem as if God and the angels were conducting a service alongside Franklin, Rev. James Cleveland, the Southern California Community Choir, and everyone else in attendance. Her versions of "How I Got Over" and "You've Got a Friend" are legendary. ~ Ron Wynn
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Soul - Released March 14, 2002 | Rhino Atlantic

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Soul - Released June 16, 1998 | Arista

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
GET IT RIGHT presents the '80s Aretha; the Aretha of "Jump to It," and "Freeway of Love." Having left behind the gritty soul and Gospel sounds of her early work as well as the discofied sounds of her late-'70s efforts, Franklin moved toward a funky, synth-oriented sound in the early-'80s. Though much of the rhythm and melody here is electronically derived, there's no lack of feeling in Franklin's performances. It's virtually impossible for Aretha to invest anything less than her all in a recording, and GET IT RIGHT is no exception. Most of the songs here were written by Luther Vandross and Marcus Miller (the former produced and the latter contributed bass and keys), and while the approach is straight-ahead '80s pop/R&B, the delivery is all Aretha, eminently soulful.
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Soul - Released March 20, 1998 | Arista

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
For much of the '90s, Aretha Franklin acted as if she couldn't even care about appealing to a younger audience. She rarely recorded, and when she did, it was usually slick adult contemporary material. That's what makes the fresh A Rose Is Still a Rose such a surprise. Although it certainly has its share of predictably glossy ballads fit for adult radio (usually produced by Narada Michael Walden or Michael Powell), the most notable element of the album is that Franklin collaborates with fresh talent, all of whom are either prominent rap figures or at least fluent in hip-hop. That's not to say that A Rose Is Still a Rose is a rap album -- it simply illustrates that the album sounds contemporary, which is the last thing most observers would have expected from Franklin in 1997. That in itself is heartening, but that doesn't necessarily mean everything works. Lauryn Hill's "A Rose Is Still a Rose" is a perfect match, lyrically and musically, but it only shows how shallow Puff Daddy's writing really is on "Never Leave You Again." Still, Dallas Austin's "I'll Dip," Jermaine Dupri's "Here We Go Again" and "Every Lil' Bit Hurts," and Daryl Simmons' "In the Morning" and "In Case You Forgot" all work, and Franklin's original "The Woman" is arguably her most soulful performance in years. These make the awkward moments forgivable because they find Franklin sounding vital, which is something that has not happened throughout the '90s. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Soul - Released December 13, 1994 | Rhino Atlantic

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
A nice, if at times overbearing, mid-'70s Franklin set. She was still singing with the stunning delivery, amazing timing, and majestic soul that highlighted her late-'60s releases. Her version of "Until You Come Back to Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)" is the only one that might be superior to Stevie Wonder's great original, while "I'm in Love" and the title cut are prime Franklin. ~ Ron Wynn
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Soul - Released September 15, 2003 | Arista

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During the five years that separated So Damn Happy from her previous album, A Rose Is Still a Rose, Aretha Franklin made the celebrity-gossip pages many more times than she earned airplay on the radio. Neatly side-stepping her problems with the law (including the mysterious circumstances that surrounded the fire at her home), Aretha's return to the studio illustrates that her power lies not in managing her career but in putting across any song that comes her way. Recording mostly in Detroit with a small group, she tempered the hip-hop inclinations of A Rose Is Still a Rose to deliver a refreshing (though admittedly sterilized) update of her '70s records. Various producers and songwriters -- including Troy Taylor, Ron "Amen-Ra" Lawrence, and Jam & Lewis -- give her backgrounds composed of earthy, acoustic-driven soul, similar to contemporary records by India.Arie or Jill Scott. Most of the songs, led by "The Only Thing Missin'," the title track, and "Holdin' On," are up to a high level, catchy and easy to understand (all the better to simply luxuriate in Aretha's powerful voice). Also, two mild concessions to the hip-hop world end up paying off: guest Mary J. Blige arranged the backing vocals for two songs, both of which reach a level not seen since the days of the Sweet Inspirations, while producer Ron "Amen-Ra" Lawrence delivered an organic arrangement for a song called "Wonderful" that evokes the glory days of '70s soul more than any other song here. Aretha shouldn't need to resort to overkill to proclaim her joy at making music; the songs on So Damn Happy are all the proof her fans need to understand that her talent remains undiminished nearly 50 years after her debut as a secular act. ~ John Bush
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Soul - Released March 9, 2009 | Arista

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This is her first album with Arista after ending a 13-year, largely successful stint with Atlantic Records. By as early as 1973, Franklin's album turnout became spotty as late-'70s entries, Sweet Passion and La Diva came and went quickly. For Aretha, Arista label president Clive Davis drummed out a certain amount of fanfare for this initial effort, and for the most part it was deserved. Aretha attempts to pull out all of the stops, which is suitable for a major artist coming to a new label. The best moments here reestablish Franklin as a phenomenal singer, not just an icon. The brilliantly sung "United Together" and autumnal "Come to Me" have both Franklin and producer Chuck Jackson seemingly like they'd recorded together for years. What undoes Aretha is a few overproduced tracks of dubious distinction. The too busy cover of the Doobie Brothers "What a Fool Believes" fails Franklin, skimming past the song's lyrical. Her gospel-fueled childhood recollection "School Days" and a discofied cover of "I Can't Turn You Loose" are both ingratiating and potentially nerve racking. This effort was meant to reestablish Franklin, and it was more popular than most of her late-'70s Atlantic albums, but this could have been better. ~ Jason Elias
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Soul - Released October 29, 2007 | Rhino Atlantic

Aretha Franklin has simply been one of the greatest singers of the modern generation, and whether bringing her powerful, passionate voice to bear on gospel standards, songs from the Great American Songbook, jazz standards, pop ditties, or deep Southern soul and R&B, she has always had the presence -- much like Ray Charles -- to make anything she touches unmistakably hers. Franklin began her career in gospel when she was still a teenager, and her amazing vocal talents, coupled with her fine piano playing, marked her as a once-in-a-lifetime kind of artist, qualities very apparent to legendary talent scout John Hammond, who signed her to Columbia Records. The problem Hammond and Columbia immediately ran into, though, was how to best present that spirited voice to the secular pop world. Columbia tried Franklin in a variety of styles and settings, but none of them exactly caught fire with the public -- that didn't happen until after the singer had moved on to Atlantic Records and an inspired pairing with producer Jerry Wexler, who brought out Franklin's deep soul roots by putting her in front of the Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section. The hits came pouring out, including "Chain of Fools," "Respect," "Spanish Harlem," and several other iconic classics, all of which are featured in this 60-track playlist drawn from Franklin's productive stay at Atlantic. Heard together like this, they form the heart and soul of her impressive legacy. ~ Steve Leggett
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Soul - Released November 10, 2017 | Rhino Atlantic

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This type of album brings on the eternal debate: why fix a masterpiece if it ain’t broke? This is definitely the kind of metaphysical interrogation that you could ask when listening to A Brand New Me: Aretha Franklin With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The idea is simple: take the vocals from the mythical recordings by the great soul singer for the label Atlantic in the ‘60s and ‘70s and place them on new arrangements performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Recorded in the Abbey Road studios in London, all the classics including Respect, Think, Don't Play That Song (You Lied) and I Say A Little Prayer resonate here in a symphonic version. We find Nick Patrick and Don Reedman hiding behind the creation, the same producers who conceived If I Can Dream: Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Some will find this scandalous. Others, rather futile. And others will enjoy this new staging of careful arrangements that at least has the merit of not damaging the heart of this nuclear powerhouse of groove: the voice of Aretha Franklin herself. © CM/Qobuz
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Soul - Released September 28, 2018 | Rhino Atlantic

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. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Soul - Released June 1, 1985 | Rhino Atlantic

30 Greatest Hits zeroes in on Aretha Franklin's prime recording period for Atlantic, from her breakout in 1967 with "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)" through the end of 1974, during which the Queen of Soul truly reigned over the charts -- she averaged over one pop hit every two months. This two-disc set delivers all of her classics ("Respect," "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man," "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," "Chain of Fools," "Think," "Spanish Harlem," "Rock Steady"), plus much more excellent material for those who won't recognize much more than the songs (and there are quite a few) that have entered the cultural consciousness ("I Say a Little Prayer," "The Weight," "Spirit in the Dark," "Day Dreaming"). It's a great foundation to any collection that has yet to be equaled by a pair of Rhino sets, the two-volume Very Best of Aretha Franklin from 1994 and Aretha's Best from 2001. ~ John Bush

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Aretha Franklin in the magazine
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