Aretha Franklin

Band members                              Related acts

- Aretha Franklin - vocals, keyboards


  supporting musicians (1970)

- Margaret Branch -- backing vocals

- Brenda Bryant -- backing vocals

- Lou Collins -- sax

- King Curtis -- sax

- Cornell Dupree -- lead guitar

- Jack Hale -- trombone

- Roger Hopps -- trumpet

-- Wayne Jackson -- trumpet

- Jerry Jemmontt -- bass

- Andrew Love -- sax

- Jimmy Mitchell - - sax

- Pamcho Morales -- congas

- Billy Preston -- keyboards

- Bernard Purdie --  drums

- Pat Smith -- backing vocals




Carolyn Franklin (RIP)

- Erma Franklin (RIP)





Genre: soul

Rating: ***** (5 stars)

Title:  I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You

Company: Atlantic

Catalog: 8193

Year: 1967

Country/State: Detoit, Michigan

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: mono pressing

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5009

Price: $20.00

Cost: $66.00


This is one of the few albums that I've actually gone out of my way to find in both mono and stereo formats ...  it is that good !!!


Having recorded six money losing albums for Columbia, in late 1966 Aretha Franklin signed with Atlantic Records.  In this day of megabuck deals it is mind boggling to discover that the deal put $25K in her pocket.  


Team with producer Jerry Wexler, Franklin's initial recording sessions took place at Rick Hall's Fame Studios with support from the famed Muscle Shoals rhythm section.  Unfortunately the sessions got off to a rocky start when Franklin's husband Ted White got into an argument with the some of the local sessions players.  The rest of the sessions took place in New York.  Luckily the damage wasn't lasting since "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You" stands as one of popular music's all time classic albums.  So what is there to say about one of music's most celebrated releases?  For what they're worth (little if anything), my thoughts ...  Having heard most of her Columbia work, credit producer Wexler for realizing Franklin needed to be placed in a tougher R&B/soul environment.  Similarly, congratulations to Atlantic for allowing Franklin to select much of the material herself (including the title track), as well as allowing her to record several original tracks ('Don't Let Me Lose This Dream' and 'Baby, Baby, Baby').  The end results are simply stunning with Franklin showing her ability to handle everything from rock ('Save Me'), R&B ('Drown In My Own Tears') light jazz ('Soul serenade') and even a bossa nova groove on the original ('Don't Let Me Lose This Dream').  Tasteful and full of grace and self-assurance, Franklin's never sounded as good.  And for goodness sakes, what do you say about the album's top-10 singles?  Anyone hearing her dazzling cover of Otis Redding's 'Respect' will instantly understand why Redding was quoted as saying 'That girl stole the song from me'.


- 'I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)' b/w 'Do Right Woman, Do Right Man' (Atlantic catalog number 45-2386)

- 'Respect' b/w 'Dr. Feelgood'  (Atlantic catalog number 45-2403)


All hyperbole aside, if you don't own this album find a copy (or download it).  It is one of those albums you need to hear before you pass on.


"I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Respect   (Otis Redding) - 2:26

2.) Drown In My Own Tears   (Henry Glover) - 4:00

3.) I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)   (Ronny Shannon) - 2:47

4.) Soul Serenade   (Curtis Ousley - Luther Dixon) - 2:30

5.) Don't Let Me Lose This Dream   (Aretha Franklin - Ted White) - 2:22

6.) Baby, Baby, Baby   (Aretha Franklin - Carolyn Franklin) - 2:48


(side 2)

1.) Dr. Feelgood (Love Is a Serious Business)   (Aretha Franklin - Ted White) - 3:18

2.) Good Times  (Sam Cooke) - 2:05

3.) Do Right Woman, Do Right Man   (Dan Penn - Chips Moman) - 3:15

4.) Save Me   (Curtis Ousley - Aretha Franklin - Carolyn Franklin) - 2:20

5.) A Change Is Gonna Come   (Sam Cooke) - 4:15



Genre: soul

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Live At the Fillmore West

Company: Atlantic

Catalog: SD 7205

Year: 1969

Country/State: Detroit, Michigan

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 3

Catalog ID: 1475

Price: $20.00


Co-produced by Jerry Wexler and Arif Mardin, "Live At the Fillmore West" captured Aretha Franklin at a series of three March 1971 concerts at San Francisco's fabled Fillmore West.  Clearly adjusting her catalog for the Fillmore's young, white rock audience, the ten tracks found Franklin doubling up on popular pop and rock hits including Manassas' 'Love the One You're With', Simon and Garfunkle's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', and Bread's 'Make It with You'.  There wasn't anything wrong with those performances; in fact her cover of the Stephen Stills' tune was one of the album highlights.  On the other hand, Franklin focus on pop and rock tunes left precious little room for her soul catalog.  Sure 'Respect' was here (in a speeded-up, hyper-velocity arrangement), as was an extended 'Dr. Feelgood' and an even longer 'Spirit In the Dark' (including a cameo from Ray Charles).  Personally I would have liked more classic soul tunes and less pandering to the hippie crowd.  From a sonic standpoint you had to admire Franklin's willingness to release this set with minimal post-production overdubs and fixes.  You got to hear audience noises; blown notes, and occasional out-of-tunes vocals.  Few artists were willing to release something as honest as this set.     


inner sleeve photo

"Live At the Fillmore West" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Respect   (Otis Redding) - 3:53

Kudos to Bill Graham for keeping the introduction brief.  Unfortunately, I'm not a big fan of Franklin's opening number.  True 'Respect' is one of her classic performances, but here she played it at hyper speed, sounding like she was running late for a flight home.  Add in a shrill delivery and some irritating backing horns, and this was a disappointing way to start off.   rating: **** stars

2.) Love the One You're With  (Stephen Stills) - 4:15

I remember wondering what in the world she was doing covering a Manassas tune; thinking there simply wasn't any way she was going to be able to incorporate the tune into her repertoire.  Shame on me.  Echoes of 'Respect', Franklin almost stole the song from Stephen Stills.   rating: **** stars

3.) Bridge Over Troubled Water   (Paul Simon) - 5:55

I guess because I grew up with the Simon and Garfunkel original, it's hard for me to accept a cover version of 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'.  Mind you, with Billy Preston on organ,  Franklin turned in an impressive cover.  She didn't really mess with the original structure, rather slowing it down and giving it a more Gospel-ish delivery.  One of the best versions ever done.   rating: *** stars

4.) Eleanor Rigby   (John Lennon - Paul McCartney) - 2:53

I know lots of folks love this cover, but I've never gotten aboard the train.  Maybe because I was never completely sold on the Beatles original, Franklin's cover came off as shrill and disjointed.  Okay, kudos to King Curtis and the Kingpins ...   rating: *** stars

5.) Make It with You   (Larry Wilcox) - 4:33

Another one where my preference goes to the original (David Gates and Bread), though Franklin turned in an enjoyably breezy cover.   rating: *** stars


(side 2)

1.) Don't Play That Song   (Ahmet Ertegun - Betty Nelson) -  3:16

As much as I've always loved this tune, the live version sounded shrill and rushed, though it was nice to hear Franklin on keyboards.  Neither the sound, nor video quality were very good, but YouTube has a clip of the live performance at:   One where the studio version was the way to go.  rating: **** stars

2.) Dr. Feelgood    (Aretha Franklin - Ted White) - 7:06

Aretha slowing it down and getting into a bluesy groove with King Curtis, Billy Preston, and company.  The tune ran out of steam around the five minute mark when it got stuck in some needless Gospel give and take between Franklin and her backing singers.   rating: *** stars

3.) Spirit In the Dark   (Aretha Franklin) - 5:33

Not much to say other than this was one of the album highlights ...   Hearing Franklin trot out her Gospel roots just has to be heard.   rating: **** stars

4.) Spirit In the Dark (reprise)  (Aretha Franklin)  - 8:53

Pulling a page out of the James Brown catalog, at the end of the earlier tune Franklin went off stage and then reappeared with a special guest star in the form of Ray Charles (who just happened to be in the audience for the third night of Franklin's Fillmore appearence) .  And while I'm a big Ray Charles fan, the man seemed somewhat lost and uncomfortable standing there.  I'm not sure he was really feeling the spirit.  It wasn't until Charles traded places with Franklin at the electric piano that he truly came to life.  Sadly, the album edited that segment out, though you can see the full 25 minutes performance courtesy of YouTube:   rating: **** stars

5.) Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)   (Nikolas Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 2:53

The album edited out Franklin's end-of-concert thanks to King Curtis and the Sweethearts of Soul (Margaret Branch, Brenda Bryant, and Pat Smith), giving the tune a breezy, soulful feel.  Franklin really didn't sing very much and The Sweethearts came off as shrill and brittle.  rating: ** stars



The black and white video isn't very good and the sound quality is equally poor, but anyone interested in seeing the full July 3rd, 1971 concert can find it on YouTube at:




Hardcore fans will want to look for Rhino Handmade's expanded 2005, limited edition four CD box set "Don't Fight The Feeling: The Complete Aretha Franklin & King Curtis Live At Fillmore West" (Rhino Handmade catalog number RHM2 7890).  5,000 copies were pressed and it's become an expensive collectable - $500+ the last time I looked.






Genre: soul

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  This Girl's In Love with You

Company: Atlantic

Catalog: SD 8248

Year: 1970

Country/State: Detroit, Michigan

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1302

Price: $20.00

Co-produced by Aretha Franklin's long term "A" team of collaborators/producers  Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, and Arif Mardin, 1970's "This Girl's In Love with You" was another landmark release.   Chronologically the album offered up an interesting mixture of material Franklin had previously recorded in New York and newer tracks recorded at Miami's Criteria Studios with a host of Muscle Shoals sidemen, including guitarist Duane Allman.   Stepping away from the jazz moves of her prior studio release, the collection offered up a mixture of popular pop and soul covers; most given a distinctive Franklin reading.  With her marriage to Ted White collapsing and her personal life in tatters, it shouldn't have come as a surprise that much of the collection had kind of a dark and disturbed vibe ('It Ain't Fair', 'Dark End of the Street', and 'Sit Down and Cry'), but then, those are the kind of circumstances that have always made for some of Franklin's best work.   And for those in need of a bit of hope, there was always Aretha's own 'Call Me'.   With Franklin providing lots of the keyboards (along with Barry Beckett), this was a wonderful collection and well worth the investment.


"This Girls' In Love with You" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Son of a Preacher Man   (John Hurley - Ronnie Wilkins)- 3:14

I guess because I grew up hearing the Dusty Springfield version, that's the one one I gravitate to.  Mind you, there wasn't anything wrong with Franklin's version.  Slowed down and far more Gospel-ish than Dusty's version, but the same basic song structure and arrangement.  Interestingly, Franklin was originally offered the tune but supposedly feeling it was not in keeping with her faith and background (remember she was the daughter of a preacher man), declined it.  Ironically, sister Erma had recorded the song before Dusty Springfield.   rating: **** stars

2.) Share Your Love with Me   (Al Braggs - Deadric Malone)- 3:16

Interesting to hear the adult, jazzy vibe on this breezy ballad.   The other highlight came in the form of Franklin's often overlooked skills as a keyboard player.  The Sweet Inspirations have seldom sounded as good on backing vocals.  Neither the video, or sound quality are all that good, but YouTube has a clip of Franklin performing the tune at the 1971 Montreux Jazz Festival:     rating: *** stars

3.) Dark End of the Street   (Chips Moman - Dan Penn)- 4:40

Not to take anything away from James Carr, but wow, Franklin taking a stab at one of the all time soul classics ...  stunning.   rating: ***** stars

4.) Let It Be   (John Lennon - Paul McCartney) - 3:28

Perhaps nothing more than urban legend, but Paul McCartney supposedly wrote this highly autobiographical tune with Franklin in mind.  She was offered first rights the tune given a demo, and actually recorded it before The Beatles, but then decided to sit on the track, finally releasing it after The Beatles had scored a hit with it.  Regardless,  I'm always surprised by how much I like Franklin's Gospel-ed up version of the tune.  Perhaps it had something to do with her background, but her version is simply heart stirring (not to take anything away from the original).   Always loved the opening organ segment of the song.   rating: **** stars

5.) Eleanor Rigby   (John Lennon - Paul McCartney) - 2:35

Previously released as a 1969 single, for me  the album's biggest surprise came in the form of Franklin's second Beatles cover -  With the possible exception of Ray Charles' cover, this is simply one of the toughest Beatles tunes to wrap your arms around.   Regardless, Franklin managed to give the tune a major soul infusion which comes close to making you forget the original.    Recorded at a June 1971 Fillmore West date, YouTube has a killer live performance of the tune:  My two cents, but peeded up a little too much, the live version isn't quite as good as the studio version.   rating: **** stars


(side 2)

1.) This Girl's In Love with You   (Burt Bacharach - Hal David) - 4:46

I'm not always thrilled with Franklin's covers of pop hits, but accompanying herself on piano and with Duane Allman on guitar, she simply shredded Herb Alpert's MOR-ish hit version.   rating: **** stars

2.) It Ain;t Fair   (Ronnie Miller) - 3:20

Aretha Franklin, Duane Allman, King Curtis, and David Hood ...  need anyone say anything else ?   An all time Franklin classic.   rating: **** stars
3.) The Weight   (Jaime Robertson)- 2:52

Franklin's cover of The Band's 'The Weight' was kind of an odd musical choice, but her arrangement was nice and didn't stray too far from the original.  Duane Allman made his presence instantly felt with some stunning acoustic slide guitar that kicked the song along, as if it needed any additional energy.  Strange to hear, but easily another album highlight.  The song had previously been released as a 1969 single.    rating: **** stars.  

4.) Call Me   (Aretha Franklin)  - 3:47

The album's only Franklin original, 'Call Me' was a stark, heartfelt ballad.  Written during her break-up from Ted White, Franklin claimed the song was inspired by a couple she saw saying goodbye to each other in a Detroit coffee shop.  Stunning, if the Diana Ross-styled ending was a bit campy.  Atlantic tapped it as another single.  YouTube has another clip from Franklin's appearance at the 1971 Montreaux Music Festival with support from King Curtis and his band:   rating: **** stars

5.) Sit Down and Cry   (Clyde Otis - Lou Stallman) - 3:49

Propelled by David Hood's fantastic bass, 'Sit Down and Cry' was a nice Gospel-influenced ballad, but simply didn't make the same impression as the rest of the album.  rating: ** stars



The album included the following four singles:



- 1969's 'The Weight' b/w 'Tracks Of My Tears' (Atlantic catalog number 45-2603)

- 1969's 'Share Your Love with Me' b/w  'Pledging My Love / The Clock' (Atlantic catalog number 45-2650) # 13 pop

- 1969's 'Eleanor Rigby' b/w 'It Ain't Fair' (Atlantic catalog number 45-2683) 

- 1970's 'Call Me' b/w 'Son of a Preacher Man' (Atlantic catalog number 45-2706) # 13 pop


Genre: soul

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  With Everything I Feel In Me

Company: Atlantic

Catalog: SD 18116

Year: 1974

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1267

Price: $12.00


Oh my goodness ...  preacher's daughter gone wild !!!  I've always wondered what Arif Mardin had to do in order to get Aretha Franklin to agree to shooting the provocative cover.


So 1974's "With Everything I Feel In Me" is another album where I find myself disagreeing with the mainstream.  Lots of folks seem to feel that the album reflects a return to Franklin's soul roots.   Well, kind of ...  the album found Franklin reuniting with former producers Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, and Arif Mardin (Franklin also was credited as a co-producer).  The set was also a reunion of sorts with some of the studio musicians she'd worked with during those earlier years, including (guitarist Cornell Dupree, bassist Chuck Rainey, keyboardist Richard Tee, and drummer Bernard Purdie.  It was also notable for the fact Franklin played piano on all ten tracks.  Other promising characteristics included the fact the only Franklin original 'With Everything I Feel In Me' was a classic performances.  Her cover of Barry Mann's 'When You Get Right Down To It' was wonderful, even better than the Ronnie Dyson version, and her performance on sister Carolyn's 'Sing It Again - Say It Again' provided another album highlight.  Still, those were the exceptions to the rule.  Far too much of the set found Franklin continuing her awkward drift through musical genres, seemingly uncertain if her future was in soul, pop, or more adult contemporary material.  Was it an essential Franklin release ?  Nah, but any self-respecting fan will want a copy anyway. 


"With Everything I Feel In Me" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Without Love   (Ivy Joe Hunter - Carolyn Franklin) - 3:47

'Without Love' was one of two tunes from her younger sister Carolyn.   With a distinctive Gospel edge, the tune had a wonderful melody that was perfect for the song's distinctive call and response arrangement.   As good as the song was, Franklin's vocals came off as being a bit shrill, though that didn't stop Atlantic from tapping it as a single.  I can hear Franklin fans howling in protect, but I'd suggest the best version of the song was a live, rocked-up performance by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.  Atlantic tapped the song as the leadoff single.    rating: *** stars. 

2.) Don't Go Breaking My Heart   (Burt Bacharach - Hal David) - 4:17

Trilling, a spoken word vamp ...  I know some folks love those things, but I've got to tell you that when combined with some outright screeching and this lame Bacharach-David tune, the results were borderline unlistenable.   rating: ** stars

3.) When You Get Right Down To It   (Barry Mann) - 3:55

I grew up hearing the Ronnie Dyson version which was much gentler, lacking the soul edge that Aretha brought to the tune.  Yeah, Dyson's version may have been more commercial, but I'd give the nod to Aretha's full throttle cover - the closing section may be the funkiest thing she's ever recorded.   rating: **** stars 

4.) You'll Never Get To Heaven   (Burt Bacharach - Hal David)- 5:40

Seriously hard too recognize this as the same tune The Stylistics score big with.  Aretha drastically slowed it down, filling it with lots of la-la-las (which didn't do much for me) and a heavily orchestrated arrangement.  Her voice remained enthralling and the arrangement had a breezy charm (always laugh when the backing singers kick in), but I'd actually vote for The Stylistics version.   rating: *** stars

5.) With Everything I Feel In Me   (Aretha Franklin) 3:53

The only Franklin original on the album and as it turned out, the hardest slice of soul she'd recorded in a couple of years.  Aretha showcased her often overlooked keyboard chops, but Chuck Rainey's bubbling bass was the standout performance.   rating: **** stars


(side 2)

1.) I Love Every Little Thing About You   (Stevie Wonder) - 3:42

Originally recorded on Stevie Wonder's "Music of My Mind" LP, Franklin's cover ditched the ballad's sweet arrangement (and a great chorus) for an arrangement with deep gospel roots that allowed her to stretch out her voice.  Nice cover, but Wonder's original was better.   rating: *** stars

2.) Sing It Again - Say It Again   (Carolyn Franklin) - 3:51

Upbeat and bouncy with some nice Cornell Dupree wah-wah guitar, ' Sing It Again' was the second tune written by sister Carolyn and was one the album standouts. - probably the tune I would have tapped as a single.  Yeah, Franklin over-sang this one as well, but she sounded like she was enjoying herself on this one.   The give and take between Franklin and the backing singers (Margaret Branch, Brenda Bryant, and Pat Smith) was a hoot.    rating: **** stars  

3.) All of These Things   (James Cleveland) - 3:54

I certainly had doubts when I saw this James Cleveland song was on the album, but give Franklin credit for turning it into a sultry song of praise.  As good as Aretha was, the real highlight came in the form of Cornell Dupree's guitar solo.  rating: *** stars

4.) You Move Me   (Glen Murdock - Mike Keck) - 6:22

Okay, I'll admit Franklin turned in amazing vocal performance on 'You Move Me', but the song itself was a sluggish, Gospel-tinged ballad only redeemed by a brief, mid-song outburst.    Served as a perfect example of the pros and cons of this album.   rating: *** stars


Atlantic released a slew of singles, but none did much on the charts:




- 1974's 'Without Love' b/w 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart' (Atlantic catalog number 45-3224) # 45 pop; # 6 R&B

- 1975's 'With Everything In Me' b/w 'Singer It Again - Say It Again' (Atlantic catalog number 45-3249) #20 R&B


The parent LP attracted positive reviews but was only a moderate seller, hitting # 57 on the pop charts and at # 6 on the R&B charts.



Genre: soul

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Spirit In the Dark

Company: Atlantic

Catalog: SD 8265

Year: 1970

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+//VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 191

Price: $25.00


I've always had a special place in my heart for 1970's "Spirit In the Dark".  It may sound stupid, but even though the album lacked the commercial sheen and appeal of some of her earlier albums, I attribute at least part of my affection to the fact it didn't attract the massive sales and publicity of her mid-1960s catalog (it only hit # 2 on the R&B charts and # 25 on the pop charts).  


Produced by Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin, and Jerry Wexler, as you probably guessed from the title, "Spirit In the Dark" found Franklin returning to her Gospel roots with a collection of dark and highly personal tracks (Don't Play That Song'', 'The Thrill Is Gone (From Yesterday's Kiss)' and When the Battle Is Over'').   I'm no Franklin biographer, but I remember reading that Franklin's marriage to manager Ted White was in its final stages of collapse - in July 1969 she even managed to get arrested in Detroit on a disturbing the peace charge.  This is pure speculation on my part, but the forthcoming divorce from White would clearly seem to have been a major inspiration for the collection which bounces between searing hurt, uncontained fury ('When the Battle Is Over'), and a sense of forgiveness, redemption, and hope ('That's All I Want from You').  Adding icing to the cake, for the first time in years, Franklin was prominently featured on keyboards.  People tend to forget how good a keyboard player she was ...


"Spirit In the Dark" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Don't Play That Song  (Betty Nelson - Ahmet Eretegun) - 2:46

I think Ben E. King had the original hit, but Franklin's cover of 'Don't Play That Song' was even better than the original and would seem to be a clear reflection on her relationship with husband White.  The way she simply screamed the 'you lie, you lie' chorus reeked of hurt and anger.  The song also served to showcase what a talented keyboard play Franklin was.  Beautiful song and easy to see why Atlantic tapped it as a single.  For anyone interested, YouTube has a stunning clip of Franklin playing the song on a 1970 episode of Cliff Richard's English television program:   rating: **** stars

2.) The Thrill Is Gone (From Yesterday's Kiss)   (Art Benson - Dale Petite - Leo Feist) - 4:40

Geez, BB King's version of 'The Thrill Is Gone (From Yesterday's Kiss)'  had always been my benchmark for this song - well that was until I head Franklin's dark and brooding version.  I'm not even going to try to describe how good Franklin's cover was ... she turned it into the ultimate kiss-off song.  Simply stunning.  I could listen to this version for hours at a time.   rating: ***** stars

3.) Pullin'  (Aretha Franklin) - 3:32

The first of five Franklin originals, 'Pullin''' was the first track to reflect a Franklin ready to move on with her life.  Musically it was a very Gospel tinged number that ended with Franklin and The Sweet Inspirations engaging in an extended call and response section.  I'll give it an extra star for the positive outlook.  rating: *** stars

4.) You and Me  (Aretha Franklin) - 3:30

I've always thought Franklin's 'You and Me' was one of her prettiest compositions.  Obviously written during an earlier, happier timeframe, the song had a wonderful melody; a killer chorus, and lyrics we should all strive to live by.   A wonderful ballad that deserves to be a mainstay for every wedding band.    The sound and video quality is lacking, but YouTube has a clip of her performing the song on The Flip Wilson television program:  rating: ***** stars

5.) Honest I Do  (Jimmy Reed - Ewart Abner Jr.) - 3:10

Franklin played it pretty close to the vest with her cover of Jimmy Reed's 'Honest I Do'.  A nice slice of country-blues, Franklin's easy-going take simply underscored what an amazing voice she had.   rating: *** stars

6.) Spirit In the Dark  (Aretha Franklin) - 3:59

'Spirit In the Dark' managed to combine a Gospel feel with a distinctive non-secular lyric and a killer vocal performance.  Anyone hearing this one quickly figured out that Franklin was going to survive the breakup of her marriage better than Mr. White.    I have no idea where it came from, but YouTube has a stunning live performance of the track:    rating: **** stars


(side 2)

1.) When the Battle Is Over   (Malcolm Rebbenac - Jessie Hill) - 2:52

Backed by the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (including the late Duane Allman), musically her cover of Mac Rebbenac's 'When the Battle Is Over' recalled her mid-'60s Atlantic output.  Yeah, it's as funky as the album gets and its a keeper.  And as mentioned, it's obvious Franklin came out the winner ...   rating: **** stars

2.) One Way Ticket  (Aretha Franklin) - 2:48

The album's first disappointment, the Franklin original 'One Way Ticket' was a nice enough keyboard-propelled ballad, but simply never kicked into gear.  rating: ** stars

3.) Try Matty's  (Aretha Franklin) - 2:28

 I guess I should pick up a Franklin biography in order to figure out what 'Try Matty's' was about.  Regardless, it's another superb Franklin original that showcases her piano on a swinging blues melody.  great horn charts too boot.  rating: **** stars

4.) That's All I Want from You  (Fritz Rotter - M. Rotha - Weiss - Barry) - 2:38

Amidst all the hurt and despair, it was nice to hear the uplifting 'That's All I Want from You' - another beautiful and understated performance from Franklin with a dynamite ending.   rating: **** stars

5.) Oh No Not My Baby   (Carole King - Jerry Geffin) - 3:10

Franklin's at her best when she steps off the vocal accelerator and lets her voice simply cruise.  Her performance on the King-Goffin classic 'Oh No Not My Baby' is a perfect example.  The combination of a wonderful, breezy melody and that instantly recognizable voice made for what was one of the best tracks on the album.  Franklin simply shredded the Maxine Brown version.   Gosh, I can remember those heady days of young love ...  rating: ***** stars

6.) Why I Sing the Blues   (B.B. King - Dick Clark) - 3:08

Just like she wholesale appropriated Otis Redding's 'Respect', here she literally took position of B.B. King's 'Why I Sing the Blues'.  I've heard this song dozens of times and I still can't quite figure out how she managed to turn this into such a funky number ...   rating: **** stars


As mentioned, Atlantic tapped the album for a pair of singles:



   credited to Aretha Franklin and the Dixie Flyers:

- 1970's 'Spirit In the Dark' b/w 'The Thrill Is Gone (From Yesterday's Kiss)' (Atlantic catalog number 45-2371) # 23 pop, # 3 R&B


   Aretha Franklin solo:

- 1970's 'Don't Play That Song' b/w 'Let It Be' (Atlantic catalog number 45-2751) # 11 pop, # 1 R&B


As I mentioned earlier, not one of her best known releases, but certainly one of her best.



Genre: soul

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Sweet Passion

Company: Atlantic

Catalog: SD 19102

Year: 1977

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1009

Price: $10.00


The combination of Aretha Franklin and writer/producer Lamont Dozier should have sparked mega-sales.   Naturally, it didn't.  In fact,1977's Dozier produced "Sweet Passion" stands as one of Franklin's forgotten albums, generating little in the way of commercial sales, or critical attention at the time it was released.  So what went wrong with this one ?   Pure speculation and after-the-fact double guessing on my part.   Witnessed by lackluster promotion and the fact only one single was floated off the album, for its part Atlantic seemed to have little interest in Franklin at this point in time. I'm guessing disco, punk, new wave, and other musical genres took precedence over an established soul singer in the mid-'70s.  Another problem, while Dozier produced most of the album, schlock-meister Marvin Hamlisch was brought in to produce one track, with Marty and David Paich collaborating on another.  At least to my ears, the end result gave the album an odd, fragmented feel.   Written and produced by Hamlisch, 'Break It To Me Gently' had a very white-bread, pop feel which might explain why Atlantic decided to release if as the album's lone single.   Great if you liked Hamlisch and Carole Bayer-Sager penned theatrical tunes. Not so good for everyone else.    Similarly, Franklin seemed at a loss in terms of musical direction; taking stabs at a broad catalog of genres that ultimately watered-down the end result.  That's not to say the album was a complete waste.   Hardly known as a prolific writer, this time around Franklin was credited with four of the ten tunes, including the two standout performances in 'When I Think About You', 'A Tender Touch', and the title track.  Franklin clearly still had the goods, but would have benefited from a supportive musical guide.


By the way, Franklin's seldom looked as beguiling or radiant as on the David Alexander photographs.



"Spirit In the Dark" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Break It To Me Gently   (Marvin Hamlisch - Carole Bayer Sager) - 3:20

I'm not a musician so when it comes to technicalities I'm pretty weak.  That said, this ballad's always bugged me.  Not that there was anything wrong with the song itself which actually started out with a bit of promise, rather Franklin's performance just rubs me the wrong way - for some reason the song just brought out the worst in her including a trilly performance.   The fact the tune was written by Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager certainly didn't help.   Gawd only knows  why Atlantic tapped it as a single ... maybe they were looking to kill her career.  rating: ** stars
2.) When I Think About You   (Aretha Franklin) - 4:46

Complete with driving melody and some of the best multi-tracked vocals she's ever laid down, the Franklin penned 'When I Think About You' was a major return to form.   You had to scratch your head an wonder why Atlantic didn't go with this one as the single.   rating: **** stars
3.) What I Did For Love   (Marvin Hamlisch - Edward Kleban)  - 5:17

Another Hamlisch-penned tear jerker (and the center piece of his work on "A Chorus Line"), that had its admirers, but I personally could live without.   Admittedly Franklin turned in a killer performance (I'm guessing she identified with the lyrics), but the song simply never kicked into gear; the Liberace-styled piano was bad, and the backing singers were just way out of place.   rating: *** stars
4.) No One Could Ever Love You More   (Lamont Dozier) - 3:36

The first of three Lamont Dozier tunes, 'No One Could Ever Love You More' at least saw Franklin breaking away from Marvin Hamlisch ballads.   Opening up with some raunchy Ray Parker Jr. guitar, this upbeat tune wasn't any great shakes, but at least had a memorable chorus and was short.   rating: *** stars
5.) A Tender Touch   (Aretha Franklin) - 3:58

Another Franklin original,  'A Tender Touch' had that magical, breezy feel recalled her early sound and glories.   The song would have been even better without the suffocating string arrangement.  rating: **** stars

(side 2)

1.) Touch Me Up   Lamont Dozier) - 4:38

I've seen 'Touch Me Up' described as a disco tune.   While it was a dance track, I can assure you Franklin's back-to-church vocals were anything but mindless disco.   Great, driving tune that should have returned Franklin to the airwaves.   Neither the video, or sound quality are great, but YouTube has a live performance of the song at:    rating: **** stars

2.) Sunshine Will Never Be The Same   (Lamont Dozier) - 3:36

Dozier seemed to have penned 'Sunshine Will Never Be The Same' specifically for Franklin, nailing the kind of lyric and easy-going, breezy melody that allowed her to simply dominate the song.  Another album highlight.  rating: **** stars
3.) Meadows Of Springtime   (Aretha Franklin) - 5:26

When you thought the worst was over, along came the ballad 'Meadows of Springtime'.   About all I can say is the song never recovered from Franklin's extended, opening spoken word introduction.  Chronic over singing didn't help in terms of likeability.    rating: ** stars 
4.) Mumbles  /
Introduction: I've Got The Music In Me  (Clark Terry - Aretha Franklin / Bias Boshell) - 3:40

Showcasing her scat moves, Franklin's jazz fans will probably love the 'Mumbles  / Introduction: I've Got The Music In Me' medley.  Technically I guess it was impressive, but personally, it didn't do much for me.   rating:   *** stars
5.) Sweet Passion    (Aretha Franklin) - 7:12

It took awhile to kick in gear and was way too long, but 'Sweet Passion' unleashed that voice ...   rating: **** stars



As mentioned above, the album spun off a  quickly forgotten single:




- 1977's 'Break It To Me Gently' b/w 'Meadows Of Springtime' (Atlantic catalog 3303)  # 85 pop; # 1 R&B