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The Queen of Everything

One of the Christmas gifts from my spouse was a code for 50 free song downloads at the iTunes store. What to get? Instead of downloading full albums, I ended up using many credits on miscellaneous songs needed to fill out albums — including Aretha Franklin’s Soul ’69. This was an unusually bluesy/jazzy collaboration between Aretha and her usual Atlantic producers Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd. The fact that the album didn’t spawn much in the way of hit singles (only her exquisite take on Smokey & The Miracles’ “The Tracks Of My Tears” charted) actually works in its favor. Listening to it is like sitting in on a casual late night session with ‘Ree and band playing around, undoubtely puffing lots of Kool cigarettes to boot. Aretha’s voice is in top form as usual, but I also dug her piano playing in this hot, early Atlantic era (I always wondered why she abandoned playing piano on her records, starting in the mid-’70s). Here’s a nice little video summary of Soul ’69 from another appreciative Aretha fan:

On a similar note, here’s another video from the same YouTube user/Aretha fan. On their recent reunion album History Of Modern, Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark did a cool remix using vocals from Aretha’s ’67 track “Save Me.” This self-penned tune was a perennial fave of mine, if only for the stanza “Call in the Caped Crusader/Green Hornet, Kato too.” OMD’s treatment adds electro-funk synths to the original’s gritty vocal and guitar — it cooks!

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