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Rare & Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul

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Aretha Franklin began recording for Atlantic Records in the mid-60s and immediately established herself as one of the label’s most formidable stylists after years of floundering at Columbia Records. Her emotional intensity and dynamic vocal range wedded to instrumental backing that understood dramatic tension and groove made just about anything she sang worth hearing. These recordings rarely flag — from the late-1966 demos of “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You),” “Dr. Feelgood” and “Sweet Bitter Love” that feature Aretha sitting at the piano and freestyling her ambitious vocals, through outtakes from Aretha Arrives, Young, Gifted and Black onward through 1973. Her version of the Beatles’ “The Fool on the Hill” sounds incongruous, the pastoral psychedelic ballad doesn’t translate as heart-gripping soul music, but the rare b-side of “Pledging My Love/ The Clock,” the Isaac Hayes- David Porter penned “You’re Taking Up Another Man’s Place,” Paul Anka’s “My Way,” and Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” all transform into Aretha Franklin tunes as she phrases her empathy as only Aretha can.

Customer Reviews

Lady Soul Blowin' Your Mind

Quite literally a discovered treasure, a collection of vintage Aretha Franklin songs from her tenure at Atlantic Records had hitherto gone unnoticed for decades. Unearthed from the archives, this wealth of phenomenal music now comprises Rare and Unreleased Recordings From the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul. While including demos, alternate mixes, and B-sides, this collection primarily consists of outtakes, which, for reasons inexplicable to anyone with the ability to perceive and appreciate sound, were left off their intended albums and not released on subsequent efforts. A sweltering Muscle Shoals rhythm fuels many of the tracks, with Franklin’s inimitable voice blending secular themes with a gospel resolve. She digs deep on songs like “Talk To Me, Talk To Me” and “You’re Taking Up Another Man’s Place,” her exalted intonations galvanizing the music. She testifies like a smitten church girl on “I Need A Man (The To-To Song),” while a sly bass adds some sacred funk. And on “Heavenly Father,” this reverend’s daughter pleads for spiritual guidance in matters of the heart. Erupting into a full-blown spiritual revival, Franklin duets with Ray Charles on “Ain’t But The One,” recorded during a 1973 television special in tribute to Duke Ellington. “It’s soul overload,” Franklin once said of her singing with Charles. “But give me more of where that comes from.” Amen. One aspect of Franklin’s musicality that’s often overlooked yet fortunately highlighted on this collection is how she insulates a groove with the richness of her piano playing. On ballads like “It Was You” and “I Want To Be With You,” she takes her time while crooning over measured chord structures. Yet, on tracks with more thrust, like “The Happy Blues” and “Mr. Big,” she pounds on the piano like a sledgehammer, which suits her commanding vocal delivery. On “Mr. Big,” particularly, Lady Soul assertively moans, “I’ll rent me a room at school/If you’ll teach me all night.” Children, that’s not arithmetic she’s itching to learn. While in no way detrimental to the overall quality of this collection, a discernible difference in sonic texture occurs on material not played by the accustomed Atlantic Records musicians. Specifically, eight songs originally recorded for Franklin’s album, Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky), which Quincy Jones produced instead of Atlantic mainstay Jerry Wexler, sound more technically refined than the thicker tones heard on the other tracks. With their blues and jazz overtones, songs such as “Do You Know” and “Tree Of Life” are immediate standouts, illustrating Franklin’s versatility as a vocalist. Again, these songs merely portray a shift in production, not a flaw in performance. Actually, one would struggle to find genuine fault with just about anything on this collection. Perhaps some of Franklin’s cover versions may not be to one’s liking, but that correlates more to personal preference rather than to the merit of the music. Rare and Unreleased Recordings From the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul offers an abundance of mind-blowing, soul-stirring songs. In short, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Like Mana From Heaven

Her voice is a miracle and to hear these unreleased classics from her finest era is a total JOY. Nothing prepared me for the raw naked emotion of "Are You Leaving Me" or the fierce "Do You Know" Pass this collection up at your peril..

What you have here is Heaven!

Now, if you are a fan, a true, real live, bona fide fan of the Queen's, this CD set is God's gift to you. This 2 CD set is like getting a new Aretha CD, an Aretha that would flat out wail! The tracks are all perfection. Lean On Me and Pledging My Love are two records that I had in my collection but had never been on CD. I would have bought this CD just to get those two songs alone. But there is so my more, So Soon, I'm Trying to Overcome, My Cup Runneth Over, were enough to send me to ectasy. But Aretha's version of At Last...Oh MY Goodness! I almost ran out of the house, screaming. Now, I'm just going to sit here and wallow in Aretha, like a hog in slope, with no shame and in utter glee!


Born: March 25, 1942 in Memphis, TN

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Aretha Franklin is one of the giants of soul music, and indeed of American pop as a whole. More than any other performer, she epitomized soul at its most gospel-charged. Her astonishing run of late-'60s hits with Atlantic Records -- "Respect," "I Never Loved a Man," "Chain of Fools," "Baby I Love You," "I Say a Little Prayer," "Think," "The House That Jack Built," and several others -- earned her the title "Lady Soul," which she has worn uncontested ever since. Yet as much of an international institution...
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