Album Review

Aretha Franklin - Rare & Unreleased Recordings From the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul

Aretha Franklin - Rare & Unreleased Recordings From The Golden Reign Of The Queen Of Soul

Jerry Wexler gets it right when he says in the liner notes that when it comes to putting out alternate takes, "pop songs, unlike jazz solos (say, by Monk, Bird or Trane), did not require such treatment." He's also right when he notes that Aretha's outtakes would do any normal singer proud. That's why this collection is so awe-inspiring: 35 tracks of previously unheard material -- only a few of which are alternate takes -- including demos featuring Aretha and the piano, almost another album's worth of stuff from the Quincy Jones-produced Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky) album, a gospel rave-up with Ray Charles from a TV tribute to Duke Ellington, and Aretha-ized takes on everything from Motown ("You Keep Me Hanging On") to Leonard Cohen ("Suzanne") to '50s R&B ("Talk To Me", "Pledging My Love," "I'm In Love") to the Beatles ("Fool On The Hill") to -- gasp! -- "My Way", a version that'll make you forget anyone else ever recorded it. The sword of Aretha's gospel-born voice cuts to the heart of these songs, especially when she's also playing the piano, as if the movement of her arms and fingers provide additional interpretive power to her lungs and larynx. The opening track, her demo of "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)", will galvanize the most jaded soul fan, as will nearly every subsequent number on this two-disc set. Astonishing; these were rejects.