Aretha Franklin’s “Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky)” Reviewed
From 1967 to 1973, Aretha Franklin was in the album Top Twenty thirteen times, only Spirit In The Dark missed (here), and then she decided to shake herself up and record a straight jazz album with Quincy Jones, the result was Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky). while the consensus is that it didn’t work, the reason for why that consensus believes it didn’t work as a piece of jazz art differs. The mistake was a lack of power of Aretha’s convictions and adding some soul tracks.
An album with a song as well performed as the James Moody jazz classicism “Moody’s Mood” should not be looking elsewhere, to claim jazz is among Franklin’s skill set is a self evident truth and while only a fool would complain about moving from the penultimate jazz song to the final piano blues of “Just Right Now” (written by the band, including Quincy and Aretha), it just isn’t what we want.
Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky) lacks the power of its convictions, clearly Aretha should’ve trusted her first instinct and gone full on jazz, of course with the exception of “Somewhere” (the West Side story song) everything sounds wonderful, surely there were other Aretha albums that could have used a Bobby Womack cover, the gorgeous and soulful “That’s The way I Feel About Cha”. The song weakens in his place half way through the second side, the listener can’t get comfortable on the album. It seems to be a Frankenstein monster seamed together of her better instincts.
I put the blame clearly on two things:
1 – Quincy’s inability to get Aretha to trust him
2 – Aretha’s pop instincts, which occasionally fail her.
Essentially, if she wanted to make a jazz album, she just had to take the hit. Covering “Young, Gifted And Black” is not easier for a singer of Aretha’s strength and depth in 1973, but it is certainly more popular than “Moody’s Mood”. It’s like they got half way through and realized that jazz vs soul was no contest, jazz was (yet again) dead, and soul was all over the pop charts and Aretha was the queen of it.
It’s such a difficult album to really enjoy, listening to New Orleans funk “So Swell When You’re Well, it’s difficult to enjoy it more, but than stuck with weak yacht rock “Angel”,” it’s astonishing that the tenor sax solo is better than Aretha’s singing. I don’t know when I’ve heard that even once so far.
It’s like they have everything in place and maybe three times it all comes together and the rest is just not brave enough.