117. Aretha Franklin – Aretha: Lady Soul

Aretha Franklin – Aretha: Lady Soul

One of the big questions I ask myself when I do these reviews is “what constitutes listening to an album”? It’s fair to say one run through on Spotify on headphones when I’m sat at my work desk isn’t going to do justice to what are, by definition, classic albums. So what’s the right amount of listening for a fair review? Two plays? Three? A day in a dark room with it playing at full volume on a loop?

I guess there’s no straight answer, but it does lead to another, more interesting question – do multiple listens change how we see an album, and if so, how?

I mention it here because that’s exactly what happened with this album. I enjoyed “I Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You” for its honest soul sound which clearly showcased a supremely skilled artist, but my first listen to “Lady Soul” didn’t really rock my world – a few bright moments aside it felt like more of the same, and left me disappointed.

It was only a couple of days later when I revisited it that I realised I’d dismissed this album too quickly. There’s great high points on here like opener “Chain of Fools” as well as a delightful cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” and what I didn’t realise was the original version of “(You make me feel like) a Natural Woman” (I thought Carole King’s “Tapestry” version was the first).

“Since you’ve been gone (Sweet Sweet Baby)” is fresh, exciting and just drools soul, while there’s a version of The Young Rascals’ “Groovin’” which, given I only discovered the original a few posts back, made me smile.

What’s most interesting though is how this album stretches the boundaries of genre. On “Money Won’t Change You” and “Niki Hoekey” (interestingly two of the tracks that left me cold first time around), you realise that a lot of the breaks and the general ambience have a lot in similar with the sort of soul we would soon hear from Lyn Collins or Sly and the Family Stone. And it’s most welcome, because this is an album from an artist who’d matured in the months since “I Never Loved a Man…” and would have been wasted doing something more pedestrian.

A warm and rewarding album that’s certainly worthy of a second (or third) listen.


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