It’s worth pointing out that I’m not the only person out there on the interwebs doing this 1001 albums quest – a little bit of tippety tappety on the Google has shown me quite a few other blogs doing the same. Some are more interesting than others, and I’m trying to ignore the ones that appear to have got to about 400 in 2009 before they gave up and went outside and played with the other kids instead.
Still, one caught my eye, the superb PD vs 1001 albums, who, while he’s about 30 albums behind me, does seem to be nailing it in terms of his writing. We disagree on a few things – I don’t share his bloodlust for Bob Dylan for instance, and he’s talking out his arse when it comes to The Monks and Charles Mingus, but it’s worth a peek nonetheless.
I mention it here because he also has a habit of referencing “The Commitments”, a film that I’ve sort of forgotten over the ages. I did my best to hate it back in 1991, being a slightly fat bloke (i.e. 3 stone lighter than now) with a ginger ponytail I was too busy getting the piss taken out of me for looking like the lead singer.
Some people also called me Mick Hucknall, but they’re dead now.
Anyway, right before I listened to this album, I rewatched the film, and it stands the test of time (23 sodding years btw), and some of the better tracks are to be found on this superb album.
There’s no messing with Aretha’s position as the grand Imperial Empress of soul, and this is the album that solidified that place. Prior to this she’d spent years being messed about by Columbia Records, but once she found her way into the soul incubator that was Atlantic, she really began to stretch her abilities, and here she created a stunning ‘debut’ that stands up as an all-time soul classic.
Twice on this album she manages that clever trick of capturing a cover version and OWNING it. There’s the obvious “Respect”, probably the most powerful female soul song of the sixties, and I’m sorry Otis, but that’s always Aretha’s song now. She also does a pretty storming cover of Sam Cooke’s “A change is gonna come”, turning it into a powerful feminist anthem.
In fact, this whole album is a confident female soul album, and on the sexually upfront “Dr. Feelgood”, she sings with a boldness the likes of which hadn’t really been seen before, or at least not since the days of Bessie Smith and the “I need a little sugar in my bowl” dirty blues of the twenties.
The title track is a classic in its own right, and while she mixes in more covers like Ray Charles’ “Drown in my own tears” and Sam Cooke’s “Good Times”, her own compositions like “Dr Feelgood” and “Save Me” are more than equal to the task and this is an album that, while brutally short, never really slips in strength. She was just getting started with this one of course, but she’s still going quite healthily, as you can see, here at the White House just a couple of months ago…
Queen of soul indeed.