- Audio CD (October 21, 2014)
- Original Release Date: October 21, 2014
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: RCA
- Run Time: 41 minutes
- ASIN: B00O0MBHR4
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (384 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,090 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
Aretha Franklin Sings The Great Diva Classics
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Aretha Franklin Sings The Great Diva Classics
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Aretha Franklin, the incomparable "Queen of Soul," will release her highly anticipated brand new studio LP ARETHA FRANKLIN SINGS THE GREAT DIVA CLASSICS on October 21st, featuring the . album s lead single, Adele's "Rolling In The Deep (The Aretha Version)."
Aretha's unsurpassed vocal styling permeates on popular diva classics ranging from Barbra Streisand's "People," and Gladys Knight's "Midnight Train To Georgia," to Alicia Keys' "No One," and a mash up of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" and Destiny's Child's "I m A Survivor," and more. Also lauded as a skillful pianist, Aretha tickles the ivories on The Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On."
ARETHA FRANKLIN SINGS THE GREAT DIVA CLASSICS reunites Franklin with Sony Music Entertainment's Chief Creative Officer Clive Davis as they take the helm as co-producers to bring Davis' album concept to fruition. A-List producers Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds, André 3000, Harvey Mason, Jr., Terry Hunter and Eric Kupper add their award-winning production skills.
Rightfully earning the #1 spot on Rolling Stone magazine's prestigious "100 Greatest Singers of All Time" list, and #9 on 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list, Franklin has won a total of 19 Grammy Awards and is one of the best-selling female artists of all time, having sold over 75 million records worldwide.
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Top Customer Reviews
My assessment. I would prefer that the Queen not do an album of covers. Aretha has always done covers, some to million-selling brilliance, such as "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "I Say a Little Prayer," "Don't Play that Song," and even her seminal hit "Respect (originally by Otis Redding). However, I would prefer at this stage, Aretha do an album of original tunes so that she can create, crawl around in and embody them as only Aretha Franklin can do and avoid being compared to a previous version. Her voice is not what it once was...how could it be. Years of smoking have dulled her break range and she uses her falsetto sometimes to distraction. Having said that, she is still an extraordinarily musical singer, the operative word being...musical. She can do more in two phrases, occasional scratchy voice and all, than some singers can produce in an entire song. There are several times on this album where Aretha would change the harmonics and do a musical run that had me going: "Okay now!!!!
My favorites are "Teach Me Tonight," "I'm Every Woman/Respect" (I did not expect to like this one), reggae-tinged "No One," "You Keep Me Hangin On" and the much attacked "Rolling in the Deep." I know Rolling was a world-wide smash, but I have never liked the structure of the song. Aretha made the song work for me and the addition of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" was perfect for her interpretation of the song.
This album is not her best but it is a fun listen. Being 4 months way from being 73-years old, she is still with us and still singing with enthusiasm. For that, I am glad.
Taking a clue from her friend, master singer, and brilliant arranger, Luther Vandross, on three of this album's tracks, Aretha appends one classic song to another. Therefore, some of these songs are not credited as separate tracks, even as they are more than just sampled on "Aretha Franklin Sings...."
In these song mash-ups, there are moments of utter cleverness, vocal and compositional. For instance, the lyric "Ain't no mountain high enough \ nothing will keep me \ keep me from you" takes on a whole new meaning when, in "Rolling in the Deep," Aretha warns: "See how I leave with every piece of you \ Don't underestimate the things that I will do."
Other creative possibilities (duly executed by Aretha) are self-evidenced by listing the titles of the two songs that were rolled into one. Brilliantly, someone (was it Aretha herself?) decided to collide:
-- "I'm Every Woman" with Aretha's own "Respect";
-- "I Will Survive" with "Survivor"; and
-- "Rollin' in the Deep" with "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"
I suspect some, if not all, of these will place highly on Billboard's Dance Charts, which is still mainly influenced by club DJ's.
HOWEVER (and I cannot stress this enough), these inspired combinations, as well as other songs, become mangled -- either in recording or in post-production -- by a seemingly clueless technical team. Given that producers include giants like Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Outkast's Andre "3000" Benjamin, it is possible that in the actual pressing of the CD or in the readying of the mp3 album tracks for digital downloads (which is how I purchased it) something got lost in the translation.
No matter. With no other than the great Clive Davis serving as Executive Producer, this is inexcusable. This album's engineering, mastering, mixing and other production values are utterly regrettable, consistently an inconsistent shoddy mess. Someone needs to be fired.
Let me explain.
On "Aretha Franklin Sings...," Aretha's vocals often seem oddly compressed -- at times strangely forced into the background on "Midnight Train to Georgia," while her background vocalists' tracks are out front. In this song, and others, it is as if Aretha's vocals underwent a narrow remastering while her background singers' vocals were remastered in a wide way.
At times, the studio musicians -- here I am thinking specifically of those on "I Will Survive/Survivor" -- sound as if ensemble sections were recorded using one microphone for the entire ensemble, whereas the bass line was recorded separately. Still, other musicians were recorded in ways that could not properly distinguish individual instruments' highs from their lows.
Whatever happened, I was constantly aware of disparate technical parameters that capture different vocal and instrumental tracks, which once fractured, were later mixed down into a song, reassembled as if by Dr. Frankenstein.
The segues between some song mash-ups are so abrupt as to be jolting; at times, volume levels amongst instruments, main vocals and background vocals are out of whack. Example: Aretha's lead vocal in "Rollin' in the Deep" is largely disappeared, as if into a tunnel, when her background singers take the lead on the vocals in "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."
Listening to this mp3 album, I was made very much aware of the probability (reality?) that everyone performed their parts in different studios, in different cities, and with different engineers not on the same page, and that, at the very last moment, Clive Davis, as Executive Producer, left it all to an inexperienced production assistant/DJ to cobble together some otherwise stellar arrangement ideas.
If any one artist can get past this incompetence, it is [capital "D" "I" "V" "A"] Aretha, herself, who cheekily (and without tongue in cheek) self-references herself as "The Queen behind The King" in the mash-up of "I'm Every Woman" and "Respect." Notwithstanding the technical woes readily apparent, the combined groove on the merging of these two songs is fiercely lethal, designed to be pointed, as loaded weapon, to command even the most reluctant wall-flowers to the dance floor.
Production problems abound yet there is no denying Aretha, as she sings these "Diva Classics," brings such a surety, such a creative virtuosity to her unique phrasing and melismatic vocals. In some ways, the word, "Diva" -- in its best connotation of an unparalleled artist -- does no justice to Aretha's artistry on this album.
Okay...Let me be honest. Technically, Aretha -- in terms of her ability to hit pure notes not withered by age -- is way past her prime. Often, a rasp eliminates any hope of clarity of tone in her vocals. There are exceptions to this rule, such as her rendition of "At Last," where her diminished vocal tone works wonders, as her phrasing provides an unexpected fluidity, with Aretha ditching the silences in James' original for impeccably extended phrasing. In this vein, her rather straight forward jazzy send ups of "Teach Me Tonight" and an unexpected upbeat be-bop rendition of "Nothing Compares 2 U" eschew technical shortcomings and impress nonetheless.
Without a doubt, Aretha, immersed in playful diversion, is having fun as she showcases (okay...shows off) how she can reinvent songs with phrasing so loose, so playful, so buoyant, so celebratory that she really doesn't care (and I really didn't mind) that, here and there, Aretha (unintentionally, mind you) is under or over a note.
Barbra Streisand's "People" is a stunning example. Aretha, not quite hitting all the notes, sings it with such agency and urgency, as if she may not be one of those lucky "people who need people", to wit: Aretha quickly strings together syllables and phrases in ways Barbra did not on her original version; she pays no mind to her limited high range; and she features low notes Barbara would not even think of including in any rendition, past or future of this song. In short, I was deeply moved by Aretha's rendition despite her having to sing around her vocal limitations.
Indeed, there are so many playful bag of tricks: improvisations that are expanded; creativity that astounds; and ample permutations of how a song can be made one's own. For example, on "I Will Survive," Aretha, clearly improvising, is nonetheless so very much in control of when to stop singing, and when, instead, to speak a lyric. Similarly, with a growl of a phrase and a whisper of another, her expressiveness reveals a penchant to remake a song as if singing not for, or to, the masses, but to a singular focus as she scolds a lover on "You Keep Me Hanging On" or praises him on Alicia Keys' reggae-tinged, hip-hop inflected, ditty, "No-One."
It is oddly appropriate that, in Aretha's playground, she sometimes chastens the engineer to "pump up the groove" while rocking a house beat that has Aretha feeling the groove in "I'm Every Woman" (Hmmm....maybe she suspected something about the technical buffoonery that might be on display by her engineers).
Still, on "Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics," I have rarely heard an artist so self-unaware of the final product and completely lost in her unfettered process of singing what she feels at exactly the moment she feels it -- no self-editing, no retakes -- as if giving a personal command performance to anyone who will listen.
This is Aretha's brilliance.
And, despite this album's haphazard mastering, what is recorded here does capture Aretha, diva-attitude and all, in such a way that there is no doubt why Rolling Stone magazine named her the number one (#1!!!) voice in the entire recorded history of the rock & roll era.
I could have given this CD a better rating and could have forgiven the screeching, straining vocals of Aretha, if she was backed up by a better production. This CD is poorly produced. They named a lot of respected producers, but I'm wondering if they had their assistants produce this karoke like production. The production is horrible! Clive Davis must have had this CD at the bottom of his priority list.
The tracks that I did like and thought that the production, arrangement and Aretha's vocals were on point were the jazzier tracks, "Teach Me Tonight," and "Nothing Compares 2 U." Aretha should have stuck to this formula and this could have been a Grammy worthy CD fit for a queen.