Aretha Franklin’s “Aretha’s Gold” Reviewed
The Greatest Hits collection died on us. Streaming and Playlists killed it. What we have now is boxed sets, deep dives into outtakes, alternate takes and concurrent live tracks and that’s all fine for what it’s worth, but it isn’t Bob Marley’s Legend and it isn’t Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Volume Two, and it isn’t album # 19, Aretha Gold -Franklin’s 1969 jump into the heart of her Atlantic Records recordings from 1966 – 1968 by keeping attention on singles from six albums that are one definition of soul music.
Clearly, America was and should have been buying the albums, but for those who weren’t Aretha takes you through singles and flip sides, from “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” to “See Saw” -inbetween she has two covers of white artists, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “I Say A Little Prayer” -one of which is definitive and the other which would be definitive if Dionne Warwick hadn’t beaten her to it.
Also, the #blackwomenslivesmatter “Respect” headlines a set of huge songs that defined the turbulence of the 1960s in ways that music doesn’t quite define us now, all the while reaching the Hot 100 from the blues “Dr. Feelgood (Love Is A Serious Business)”, the funk banger “Prayer” B-Side “The House That Jack Built” making it onto an album, and a tribute to her childhood crush with “You Send Me”.
As a sustained piece of art, it doesn’t function as thoroughly as, say Oldies But Goldies, but as a power drilled distillation of one of the greatest runs of albums of all time throught their poppiest moments, it never loses sight of its intentions: taking the cream and making it creamier. Getting the singles in one place. Slapping them into shape. Making it not a story, it isn’t an album of movement, but making it easier to glom on to and follow. Gold is completely useful as well as being a fourteen song, 39 minute album of consistent funkiness and soulfulness, with nothing you may question about Aretha.
All these years later, if you wanted to introduce someone who had never heard Aretha to Lady Soul, you should start here: only Gospel is missing.