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Aretha Franklin’s “You” Reviewed

1975 and Aretha Franklin drops album # 28, You, and her second album that didn’t come out on CD or reach streaming services, You at least makes more sense of being left in the cold. Just commercially, it was a disaster, reaching #83 in the pop charts, though not quite the disaster it appears to be, reaching #9 in the r&b charts. Which suggest maybe either

1 – her soul didn’t fit smoothly enough in the disco landscape, despite her efforts

or

2 – it was too black to crossover

Actually none of the above, she botched the audio by heavying up the BPMs to impress the disco crowd and it didn’t happen. Having said that, the songs are far from the “A” list we are used to. Every time you see a Van McCoy credit you’d be advised to remember how mighty crowded it can get, and when the sound, produced by Aretha and Jerry Wexler, leaves it tinny and a little screechy the chances are excellent it was intentional.

Nevertheless, You is a good album. The first song alone, Aretha’s own “Mr. D.J. (5 for the D.J.)”, is a disco stomping good time and, yes, it was thrilling in its vocal handclapping, horns interruption, wailing out freak out. That is reason enough to release the album to streaming services, though you can find it on the 2021 Aretha box set and should. Check out Thelma Houston’s take on “I’m Not Strong Enough (To Love You Again)”, the second song here, because you can’t get Aretha. Thelma sounds pained, Aretha sounds like she is going to tear the world’s head off.

Nobody would claim You is a masterpiece, and still it is Aretha and prime Aretha at the age of 33, she looks stunning on the album sleeve and has the strength to transform second rate material. By the time you reach the title track it doesn’t matter whether it is disco or funk, it is a full on thriller of a song, a rambunctious dance party. Atlanta need to release this.

Grade: B+

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