There was Aretha Franklin, the talented jazz singer signed to Columbia who just didn’t know how to harness all that talent. And then there’s Aretha Franklin, the powerhouse signed to Atlantic who wisely set her up with Jerry Wexler, who immediately knew how to take that power and just unleash it (he just stepped aside and let her do her thing). Between the two of them the legend that was Atlantic Records in the 60s was solidified, and Aretha’s Gold is frankly ridiculous when you consider this is just a sampling of what Franklin brought to music in late 1967-68.
Should everyone have at least one Aretha Franklin record i their collection? I think so, and if you’re going to start somewhere I can’t think of anything better than Aretha’s Gold. Just on Side A you have “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Loved You),” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” and the soul shattering hit that is “Respect.” But just as incredible are the slower, more slithering tracks like the melancholic boogie-blues of “Dr. Feelgood” and the straight up R&B of “Baby, I Love You” and “Chain of Fools.”
And that’s only Side A.
I think that’s what’s amazing about Aretha’s Gold. It’s a snapshot in time, but that snapshot is filled with so much incredible and indelible music I’m hard pressed to think of anyone else who did as much in a year. The Beatles, sure…but I’m hard pressed to think of others. After being stifled and “shaped” for so long at Columbia when Franklin got to Atlantic Wexler was able to see the best course of action was to sit back and let her ideas pour forth. With arrangements by Arif Mardin and Tom Dowd even the later tracks like “Ain’t No Way” and “The House That Jack Built” are imbued with a power and passion thanks to Franklin’s delivery. Front to back Aretha’s Gold is a stunning look at the apex of one of the greatest singers of all time.
And since we’re finally back to covering something I own on vinyl, a quick word about the record: I had decided this was going to be the Aretha Franklin record I started with, and after a few trips to the local record shop I found a good copy for around $8.00. Bought it, took it home, cleaned it and put it on. For $8.00 I wasn’t expecting a pristine recording, and in truth despite a thorough cleaning there are still pops and crackles that accompany the entire record. Each pop and crackle though feels like a moment in time when someone played this record and loved it as much as I do. I wasn’t;t expecting that to be part of the draw of collecting vinyl, but there you go: something new every day.
(that being said, I’m still going to give it another clean…just in case)