Sunday, 8 December 2019

"The Atlantic Albums Collection" by ARETHA FRANKLIN (6 November 2015 Rhino/Atlantic 16-Albums Remastered onto 19CDs in a Clamshell Box Set – All Albums In Stereo – 336 Tracks - Bill Inglot and Dan Hersch Remasters) - Guest Musicians Include Ray Charles, Billy Preston, King Curtis, The Memphis Horns, Cornell Dupree, Curtis Mayfield, Duane Allman, Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin and many more - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...So Sweet The Sound..."

Although it doesn't advertise it too well on the front of the box or indeed on the shrinkwrap description sticker for that matter – the albums contained within this mighty lummox are the Rhino/Atco CD Reissues released across the Nineties. Ably Remastered by Rhino's longstanding engineering duo of tape experts DAN HERSCH and BILL INGLOT - fans will know that some were 'Expanded Editions' - and deck the halls with holistic holly - for Rhino has been smart enough in its digital dotage to include the lot for this rather gobsmacking Atlantic Records retrospective...

I mean the bounty here is staggering - 30 Bonuses across the fourteen Stereo albums Aretha released between 1967 and 1976 - while the final two CD compilations from 2007 offer up a further 14-track live set from 1972 (her vocals in blistering form) and 35 primo studio outtakes, rarities and single-sides from 1967 to 1976. There are 336 tracks in this mini behemoth with much of it being either inspired or just plain brill (take your pick). Amazing Grace, so sweet the sound - indeed. Let's get to the heavenly creatures...

UK released October 2007 - "The Atlantic Albums Collection" by ARETHA FRANKLIN on Rhino Records 081227951993 (Barcode 081227951993) is a 336-Track 16-Album/19CD Clamshell Box Set Housing 16 Repro Card Artwork Sleeves with Remasters stretching from 1992 to 2007 and it breaks down as follows:

1. I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You

(10 March 1967 USA LP on Atlantic SD 8139 in Stereo – 11 Track Album with 3 Bonuses on CD - 41:26 minutes)

2. Aretha Arrives

(4 August 1967 USA LP on Atlantic SD 8150 in Stereo – 11 Track Album - 36:29 minutes)

3. Lady Soul

(22 January 1968 USA LP on Atlantic SD 8176 in Stereo – 10 Track Album with 4 Bonuses on CD – 43:56 minutes)

4. Aretha Now

(14 June 1968 USA LP on Atlantic SD 8186 in Stereo – 10 Track Album – 29:28 minutes)

5. Aretha In Paris (Recorded At The Olympia Theatre) (12 October 1968 USA LP on Atlantic SD 8207 in Stereo – 13 Track Album – 41:06 minutes)

6. Soul '69 
(17 January 1969 USA LP on Atlantic SD 8212 in Stereo – 12 Track Album - 40:49 minutes)

7. This Girl's In Love With You 
(15 January 1970 USA LP on Atlantic SD 8248 in Stereo – 10 Track Album - 35:48 minutes)

8. Spirit In The Dark 
(24 August 1970 USA LP on Atlantic SD 8265 in Stereo – 12 Track Album - 39:12 minutes)

9. Aretha Live At Fillmore West 
(19 March 1971 USA LP on Atlantic SD 7205 in Stereo – 10 Track Single Album on CD1 (most tracks are uncredited as extended versions) with and additional 13 Bonuses on CD2 - CD1: 67:54 minutes, CD2: 60:50 minutes - see NOTES)

10. Young, Gifted And Black 
(24 January 1972 USA LP on Atlantic SD 7213 – 12 Track Album – 44:43 minutes)

11. Amazing Grace 
(1 June 1972 USA 2LP Live Gospel Set on Atlantic SD-2 906 – 14 Track Double-Album. This CD variant is "The Complete Recordings" two-disc version from 1999 with 13 Bonus performances spread across 2CDs (27 Tracks altogether) - CD1: 78:27 minutes, CD2: 78:11 minutes – see NOTES for sequencing of the original double-album from these CDs)

12. Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky) 
(25 June 1973 USA LP on Atlantic Records SD 7265 – 9 Track Album plus 1 Bonus on CD – 51:10 minutes)

13. Let Me Into Your Life 
(25 February 1974 USA LP on Atlantic Records SD 7292 – 11 Track Album – 43:29 minutes)

14. Sparkle 
(27 May 1976 USA US LP on Atlantic SD 18176 - 8 Track Album – Songs Composed and Arranged by Curtis Mayfield – 33:08 minutes)

15. Rare & Unreleased Recordings From The Golden Reign Of The Queen Of Soul (October 2007 UK on Rhino/Atlantic 8122-79970-3 – A 2CD 35-Track Compilation of Remastered Outtakes, Alternates and Single-Sides – CD1: 66:15 minutes and CD2: 72:38 minutes)

16. Oh Me Oh My: Aretha Live in Philly, 1972 
(October 2007 US-Only 14-Track Set on Rhino Handmade RHM2 07757. A limited edition of 7,500 copies only – 56:19 minutes)

NOTES: Eagle-eyed collectors will have noticed the oddly long total playing time of 67:54 minutes for the 10-track LP "Aretha Live At Fillmore West". This is because it doesn’t tell you that most tracks are extended in small ways – the Simon & Garfunkel cover of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" goes from 5:49 to 7:25 minutes, her own "Dr. Feelgood" is upped from 7:02 to 8:57 minutes, the final track "Reach Out And Touch (Somebody's Hand)" goes from 2:39 to 5:03 minutes and so on. But while the CD label does quietly tell you that both "Spirit In The Dark" duets with guest RAY CHARLES are unedited versions – there are no track times. So the first "Spirit In The Dark" on Side 2 goes up from 5:20 to 7:24 minutes – but what it doesn’t say is that the Reprise entry leaps from 8:38 to a whopping 19:24 minutes. 

The legendary 1972 "Amazing Grace" Gospel Live Double-Album is even more convoluted. What you get here is "The Complete Recordings" issued 1999 by Rhino of the USA on Rhino R2 75627 – the full 27 performances Remastered and Unedited onto 2CDs. What that means is that the original 14-Track 2LP vinyl set of old which was pieced together from performances across both nights is actually spread across both CDs in higgledy-piggledy order. This reissue presents both shows as they were - Thursday and Friday nights, the 13th and 14th of January 1972 in strict play-list order with no nod towards how the original double-album we are all used to played out. So for fans, here is the way to acquire the original from this twofer reissue:
Side 1: Use Track 9 on CD2, 10 on CD 1, 8 on CD2 and 14 on CD1

Side 2: Use Tracks 9, 7 and 12 on CD1

Side 3: Use Tracks 8 on CD1, 11 on CD1, 11 on CD2 and 7 on CD2

Side 4: Use Tracks 5 on CD1, 6 on CD1 and 10 on CD2

To the contents - of course the real beauty with something like this is the discovery. I recall after the late 60ts flourish of genius where it seemed like she was releasing a winner every couple of months - Soul fans and their interest waned a little. British fans probably dipped their feet into the Gospel joy of "Amazing Grace" from 1972 and not much else. LPs like "Spirit In The Dark" (1970), "Young, Gifted And Black" (1972), "Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky)" (1973) and even the "Sparkle" soundtrack from 1976 with Curtis Mayfield are full of Soulful nuggets a-begging to be rediscovered. I've already reviewed the amazing "Rare And Unreleased Recordings..." double CD set from 2007 - here in its entirety. With studio dialogue pre some of the takes, you feel like you are literally eavesdropping on magic being made – and how cool is it to see that retrospective in a gatefold Mini LP Card Sleeve.

The guest musicians list is impressive too to say the least – Bobby Womack, Ray Charles, Billy Preston, Spooner Oldham, King Curtis, The Memphis Horns, Jimmy Johnson, Joe South, Cornell Dupree, Curtis Mayfield, Duane Allman, The Sweet Sensations, Erma and Carolyn Franklin, Bernard Purdie and so many more - all alongside the capable hands of Producer/Arranger legends like Jerry Wexler and Arif Mardin.

Niggles: for sure the title carefully avoids the word complete so this box set doesn't contain five later Atlantic albums like "With Everything I Feel In Me", "You", "Sweet Passion", "Almighty Fire" or "La Diva" from 1974 through to 1979. Nor does it have a decent fact-filled booklet, which it’s crying out for, or indeed the Mono mixes of those Sixties LPs. But with the sheer amount of quality on offer here that wish list feels like a completist gripe rather than an actual negative. Better to concentrate of what we do have – huge swathes of fab 60ts and 70ts Soul.

"The Atlantic Albums Collection" by Aretha Franklin is a beautiful little thing and like Rhino's similarly well-endowed 2012 Joni Mitchell box set "The Studio Albums 1969-1979" is frankly an embarrassment of classy musical riches (with aesthetically pleasing matt card sleeves repro'ing the original period-gorgeous artwork and quality mastering - both look and sound cool too). 

Got a few bob to spend on pressies for your hip-replaced loved one ("The Atlantic Albums Collection" is currently on Amazon in December 2019 for under £47.00 as new including P&P) – then look no further my myopic messieurs and mademoiselles. And thanks Lady Soul for your passionate voice, beliefs and Dr. Feelgood-sounds oh so sweet...

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