Aretha Franklin - I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You - Review
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critics' view

After six years recording with Columbia Records, Aretha Franklin made one of the best decisions of her career when she signed with Atlantic Records and set to work with producer Jerry Wexler and the famed musicians at Muscle Shoals studios in Alabama. The chemical reaction was highly potent. In the context of this album, it’s evident from the very start, as the highly charged “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.” explodes into action. Goddam! What a funky break, what a strong woman, what a sax from King Curtis. Otis Redding would jokingly lament about “the little girl who stole my song” but you just know that, secretly, he must have been one proud daddy!

The key to this album is the constantly gripping passion from Aretha, and the fantastic accompaniment that she receives from the whole team, including her sisters Carolyn and Erma on backing vocals. Album highlight “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)” continues the early perfection. This was the first song that Aretha brought to the table in the Atlantic sessions, written for her by Ronnie Shannon. Aretha’s talents are all to the fore – her piano caress lays the foundation, and her extraordinary ability to impact emotionally all the way from breathy whispers to ecstatic screams seals one of the classiest musical performances in all of recorded history.

Aretha has a hand in the writing of four pieces, one of which, “Dr. Feelgood”, proves to be another major highlight. Once again, it’s a wholly delicious concoction centred ‘round a late-night slow-swing piano, and a sensuous vocal which is part sung – part spoken – part screamed. The band are crack – and subtle, with sensational organ and horns in particular. No matter what you’re into, this album is a stunner from start to finish. I am awestruck every time I hear it…

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