Aretha Franklin, Aretha Arrives, Atlantic SD-8150, 1967
It’s often said that a true artist at the top of their game could recite the phone book and still have a hit. This album tests that theory and kinda proves it! It’s a bit tricky to call this album Aretha Arrives when it was her second record for Atlantic and 12th major label release (Franklin spent years on Columbia releasing 10 albums with zero hits). But the album before this, I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You, is now regarded as perhaps the best regarded album by a female solo singer in history, and any record would pale in comparison to that.
Both records peaked at #2, so the critical assessment of Aretha Arrives is in hindsight. But hindsight does make it seem like this is a strange collection of songs to record for an artist breaking though the racial divide and selling true soul music to whit audiences. Besides the one hit, Baby I Love You, Aretha covers The Rolling Stones, ? & The Mysterians, and Frank Sinatra with the kind of sounds heard on her Columbia material.
Purists looking for one soul smash after another tend to get disappointed by this, but I see it as Aretha’s ability to sing anything. Perhaps in the back of her Diva oriented head she was trying to show fans of every kind of music who the real talent champion was. It’s also important to note that she literally recorded this record with one hand tied behind her back. Aretha was injured in a bad car crash earlier in 1967 and was still in a cast and recuperating when she recorded this album. To me, that’s even further proof of Aretha’s artistry and that even a so-so Aretha record is still a very good record.
Cost: $6, $172 Remaining