Aretha Franklin’s “This Girl’s In Love With You” Reviewed
It is January 1970 , and suddenly, just like that, the sixties are history and Aretha Franklin is back with her twentieth This Girl’s In Love With You, an album of modern pop standards, backed by the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, with Duane Allman on slide guitar for two songs, Paul McCartney represented with two songs, and a “Son Of A Preacher Man” that, not unlike her “Say A Little Prayer,” absolute proof you should never let your hits out of your sight when Aretha was around, she might just steal them.
All of which adds up to a beautifully sung collection of songs given a Gospel faultline, and still remains the most ordinary album of her career. While it picks up a lick towards the end, the middle sinks like a stone with both McCartney songs failing to do much more than sound wrong. “Let It Be” is a lachrymose soft sell of a song with Paulie abdicating on his generation’s behalf, and Aretha oversings it but it is such a muddled song it doesn’t much matter. “Eleanor Rigby” isn’t like that at all, “Rigby” is one of McCartney’s greatest achievements, an empathic tragedy of loneliness and hopelessness that now feels like the beginning of the end and “No one was saved” is the epitaph for a generation, two actually if you include the modern day world. Aretha turns it into a Gospel call and response and it such an awful misjudgement it could well be the worst recording she ever made. Still in the middle of the album, her “This Girl’s In Love With You” is astoundingly misjudged with those harmonies behind her (hi Dee Dee Warwick) overused as they are throughout the album, that seems to blur her way out on the bridge as she rips apart Burt Bacharach’s indelible melody and her improvisations fail. Though musically, Aretha’s piano is the main instrument after her voice and she is a strong, soulful pianist and a pounder, jumping onto tracks with power surges, and Tom Dowd puts her front and center, it isn’t enough.
It’s those three songs that sink her. The opening “Son Of A Preacher Man” is a perfect rendition, “It Ain’t Fair” gets her out of the poor middle of the album with a bluesy workout, “The Weight” shouldn’t work so well and it does with a strong blues workout (and Duane’s slide taking her to the chorus) and is a serious reconsideration of one of the 1960s best moments and indisputably the only time Robbie Robertson ever trounced Bob Dylan (it is like 2Pac’s “Hit ‘Em Up” in that sense, which beats up on Biggie for once in his career). If you trip it into two sides of vinyl, side one starts strong with “Preacher Man” and then sinks, side two opens with the title track and then rolls us up and blows us away through to the end of the album. One thing is undeniable, she learnt from it and her very next album would be a great return to form.
Side One: C+
Side Two: A-