Reviewed by Paul Poulton
Little Richard said, "Aretha Franklin may be the Queen of Soul but who wants to be the queen when you're the King of Rock'n'Roll?" Fair point, but at least the man with the foot-high bouffant recognised Aretha's position in the music scene's hierarchy. However, on these recordings from Aretha's early church days she is Queen-Designate, a princess who will ascend to the throne. On these first recordings made with a teenage Aretha in her father's church it's plain to see that the great strength of the young Aretha is her passion and ability to pull the listener into the emotion of a song. "He's All Right" moves apace and drags you along with it whether you like it or not. "While The Blood Runs Warm" is a challenging song using bending and swirling blues notes, Aretha's skill and vocal prowess is plain to see, even though the quality of recording is not what we expect these days. A plain, slightly muffled piano or organ, a congregation with the princess taking lead vocals, turn out to be valuable recordings that give us an insight into Aretha's church. In one song a sister screams every few seconds, who is perhaps a little too close to the mic that the modern day recording engineers who mastered these primitive recordings by the legendary Joseph Von Battle would have liked. It's also important to say that Aretha doesn't feature on a number of these songs, although that is not stated on the sleevenotes. Aretha's dad, the Rev C L Franklin who himself was a preacher and gospel singer with a national following, is probably the other lead vocalist featured on these 19 songs. The songs themselves extol the majesty of Jesus, who in turn could easily say, "Who wants to be the king of Rock'n'Roll when you're the King of Kings".
The opinions expressed in this article are
not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed
views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may
not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a
Interested in reviewing music? Find out