Tuesday, 18 May 2010

“3 Original Album Classics” by ARETHA FRANKLIN. A Review of the 2010 Columbia/Legacy 3CD Mini Box Set.

"…It Should Have Ended Long Ago…"

Released February 2010 in the UK and Europe “3 Original Album Classics” is a mini CD box set with 3 x 5” LP card repro sleeves inside it - Columbia/Legacy 88697618262 breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 is the album “The Electrifying Aretha Franklin” released May 1962 in the USA on Columbia Records CL 1761 (Mono) and CS 8561 (Stereo). The Stereo version is used here (12 Tracks, 31:36 minutes). The back of the box wrongly lists 13 tracks.

Disc 2 is the album “The Tender, The Moving, The Swinging Aretha Franklin” released November 1962 in the USA on Columbia Records CL 1876 (Mono) and CS 8676. (Stereo). The Stereo version is used here (70:11 minutes)

(Note: as you can see from the playing time above - a mastering error has put 22 tracks on Disc 2 – it features an uncredited whole album - Tracks 13 to 22 are the LP “Soft & Beautiful” issued April 1969 on Columbia Records CS 9776 in Stereo).

Disc 3 is the album “Soul Sister” released July 1966 in the USA on Columbia Records CL 2521 (Mono) and CS 9321 (Stereo). The Stereo version is used here (11 tracks, 30:23 minutes).

The sound quality is truly gorgeous – exceptional really – and the credits can be downloaded from Sony’s website at www.musicmadesimple.info. But that’s where the good news ends...

The music is mostly awful. This was her stay at the straight-laced Columbia label and not the entirely creative and sympathetic Atlantic Records. Columbia tried to put her across as a female Nat King Cole – so each song either starts with violin strings or features them somewhere in the middle – to a point where you end up getting tune after tune with these soulless crooner arrangements. The mediocrity of the song choices too is hard to believe – “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody” and “Swanee” for God’s sake! A woman with a godlike voice like this! Even Ray Charles’ mighty “Just For A Thrill” - which cannot be wrecked as a song - is reduced to saccharine.

It’s not all bad of course - “Only The Lonely” is lovely and features great vocal work, while her version of “Try A Little Tenderness” (later made famous by Otis Redding in 1967 on Atlantic) shows some of that magic touch. “Without The One You Love” is pretty too, even when it’s drowning in syrupy strings. And you’re constantly aware of that ‘sound’ – these are the remastered Legacy issues of a few years back and audio quality is truly breathtaking. But if you really want Aretha Franklin at her soulful best, then start with her Atlantic debut album “I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You” from 1967 and prepare to be properly blown away. Unfortunately, track after track here only convinces you that this is not Sixties Soul, but Soulless Sixties Pap.

I picked this up in a London store a few days ago – only released 3 months ago and it’s already reduced to £5.

Cheap or not, uncredited extra album or no, I’d advise you to hear this set first, before you buy it.

One to avoid I’m afraid…

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