Saturday, August 29, 2015
Aretha Two: And the Title Goes To...
Such was the impact of I Never Loved a Man… that no one batted an eye at the title of this follow up album.
After the white hot vocals of I Never Loved a Man… she dials it back ever so slightly here. The rhythms are dialed back a bit, too. Not a problem. If anything she might be even more focused, and the band really cooks.
The material, though, is slightly weaker. (The best songs lead off and end each side (if you remember what a “side” is, that is) I think she senses this. Yet she doesn’t overplay her hand by oversinging. Pretty smart, if you ask me.
Her covers compete with the originals: I think I prefer her version of “Money Won’t Change You” to James Brown (but I’ve still got that mountain to climb). “People Get Ready” is fine but not quite on the level of the Impressions. “Come Back Baby” is up there with Ray Charles’ (and let’s not forget Hot Tuna’s!). “Groovin” is okay but I’m not sure it gives her room to add much to it.
Of course “Natural Woman” is one of the greatest pop songs ever recorded (Thank you again Carole King!) with a an utterly transcendent bridge (starting at 1:45) and perhaps the greatest use of strings on a pop record ever. A great to be alive record.
“Since You’ve Been Gone” is just So. Damned. Insistent. Whew, I need to sit down.
And there's little old Eric Clapton showing up as a guest on “Good As I Am To You”, but you could easily miss it because of how Aretha wails. Who’s the idiot who said she was dialing it back?
The closer, “Ain’t No Way” tries to match this intensity of “Natural Woman”, and actually has a better vocal, but the song itself comes up short, but that just means instead of it being great it’s merely damned good.
As is the album overall. So I give the edge to I Never Loved a Man…, which is a little more consistent and has more songs. But if you want to be entertained, and amazed by that voice, and you can’t find your copy of that record, this one will do just fine.