R E S P E C T

I Never Loved A Man The Way That I Love You was one of four—count ‘em, 1-2-3-4—albums released under Aretha Franklin’s name during 1967. Four albums for two different labels. And that’s the key point of Lady Soul’s ’67 story.

Aretha released her first long player, Songs of Faith, way back in 1956 when she was an innocent fourteen year old. Five years later she was signed to Columbia and albums followed. Aretha with the Ray Bryant Trio came out in 1961 and was followed by no less than seven albums before, fed up with what could only be described as modest success, she left Columbia for Atlantic. A change may be as good as a holiday, but this shift was better than a trip to the stars.

The singer who released one of the defining records of the year, the decade and indeed of R&B was no clueless new chum, but a seasoned veteran of the US recording industry with all its biases, power structures and prejudices.

In early 1967 Ms Franklin and her Manager/husband (or should that be Husband/manager?) went to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to record her first Atlantic album at Fame Studio. But after a stunning beginning where the title track was laid down in around two hours, things were went downhill. The substantial session crew was not the interracial one label boss Jerry Wexler had requested. Alcohol and underlying tensions resulted in an unhappily premature end to the date.

Back in New York with selected members of the Muscle Shoals lot in tow, the Atlantic studio the session proceeded quite unusually. The singer played the piano parts herself, not common at the time, with the arrangements based around this voice-piano core. If you are reminded of Ray Charles, that is indeed apt.

The first song, the timeless and still exciting “Respect” opens the record with a clarion call of power and intent. One can only wonder what Otis Redding, who penned the tune, made of Aretha’s strident, stirring version. Full-hearted and huge-voiced, Aretha made the song her own. It is impossible to imagine any other singer ever wresting this song from the queen of soul.

But there is much more to I Never Loved A Man The Way That I Love You. “Drown In My Own Tears” pulls you into a swaying lament that almost swoons with heart-broken beauty. Then there’s the title track, which is simply sublime: yearning, pleading, wearing a big heart prominently on a tear-stained sleeve. You’ll have noticed that the word ‘heart’ has appeared with each of these opening songs, and that is no accident. If the secret to soul singer success is authenticity, then Aretha wrote the book with this record.

When you add in a cheeky, sexy “Dr Feelgood (Love is a serious business)” a powerfully plaintive “Do Right Woman — Do Right Man” and the heartfelt (that word again), highly charged closer “A Change is Gonna Come” you have an album showing no sign of diminished potency with the passing of a mere half-century.

I Never Loved A Man The Way That I Love You was released by Atlantic in March ’67. Columbia, not in the least bit opportunistic or exploitative, attempted to hitch a ride on the hem of its gown by releasing not one, but two further Aretha albums. Needless to say, they didn’t do much at all. But Franklin’s follow-up album for her new label sure did.

A tour and a broken elbow later, Aretha Arrives came out in August 1967 and repeated the achievement of its label predecessor by reaching #1 on the R&B chart. It did not rise quite so high on the pop chart, making it to #5 (compared to I Never Loved A Man’s #2), but it was nevertheless an amazing achievement and rocketed Aretha Franklin into the soul/R&B stratosphere.

Critics were more, er, critical than the record buying public. A number thought the some of the material below par and some of the arrangements less than optimal. But no-one doubted the spirit of the singer nor the majesty of her delivery, even if many of the tracks could be described as strong rather than riveting. Though in placing it at the top of a list of ’20 Forgettable Follow-ups to Big Albums’, Q Magazine (2004) was being particularly mean-spirited.

It is worth noting that while there were four Franklin compositions or co-writes on I Never Loved A Man The Way That I Love You, plus two Sam Cooke songs and an Otis Redding number, the follow-up album had none of the above.

Nevertheless, there are highlights. One is the sultry strut of single “Baby, I Love You”, another the quirky bounce of “96 Tears”. I am not a fan of the saccharine standard “You Are My Sunshine” but Aretha pumps it up so much it is almost unrecognisable… and all the better for it. The slow blues “Night Life” has great playing and a terrific vocal and is this listener’s other fave.

So all in all, far from a disaster. Really, the worst you could say is that Aretha Arrives is a bit thin compared with the depth and passion of I Never Loved A Man. But the title was absolutely spot on: it was 1967 and Aretha Franklin had, indeed, arrived. Within a year she was on the cover of Time magazine.

Aretha Franklin - I Never Loved A Man The Way That I Love You

Label: Atlantic

Released: March 10th, 1967

Duration: 41:19
Aretha Franklin - Aretha Arrives

Label: Atlantic

Released: August 4th, 1967

Duration: 36:30

24 comments

  1. I have bugger-all vocal albums – and half of those are gifts . (Mine include 50’s Sinatra, a few from ‘The Velvet Fog’ – surely Torme was not the inspiration for … Underground – and Holiday selections) Your post has me busting the budget yet again this year. Damn it VC, what am I to tell Z? Ah, nevermind … Just put on Respect – at bearable volume and grab the hair brush from the bathroom for some soulful karaoke.
    Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hairbrush karaoke is a wonderful thing. Shake your booty til dawn, DD.

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  2. Without R-E-S-P-E-C-T there would be no love. This makes the song to a universal rule of reason.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gut gesagt. 🙂

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  3. A wonderful (and surprisingly straightforward) assessment of these Aretha albums, Bruce. I completely agree with your comment about Aretha Arrives being “a bit thin compared with the depth and passion of” its predecessor. Most artists (in any genre) would be lucky to release such a “thin” album. 😀 I was fortunate to work at Atlantic Records from ’88 to ’94, during my early- to late-20s, and having access to so much Aretha music was one of many benefits of that job.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, Rich, Sixties soul is such a direct kind of music, not even my complex rock proclivities could corrupt my take on Aretha! Guess some of this must be in your blood, having worked for Atlantic?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I always learn a factoid or three from you, Bruce. Never knew Aretha was so young when she recorded her debut album. I also — shamelessly — never knew “Respect” was written by Otis Redding (that’s just laziness on my part). Great tribute. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Factoids R Us” 😉
      Thanks Marty.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And no, ‘er, “alternative” ones!

        Liked by 2 people

  5. What a prolific year for the Queen of Soul!
    I was really impressed with ‘I never loved…’ (that and Lady Soul are on the 1001) – like you said, equally potent 50 years later.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The Queen, indeed. That she announced her retirement last month (no more touring) makes this post rather bittersweet. (But a new album is due in September!) President Obama considers her a ‘desert island’ artist, and I’m sure he’s not the only one who does. Here’s where I sheepishly admit that I don’t own any ‘original’ albums, but rather a treasured greatest hits collection, nearly half of which are from I Never Loved A Man. Such fabulous stuff. (Your line, “The singer played the piano parts herself, not common at the time…” brought to mind Carole King’s reaction when she saw that Aretha was going to play the piano intro of “Natural Woman” in that video I posted on my blog). Really loving your 1967 series, Bruce.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s great, J. You know, for many Sixties artists (especially those who began even earlier), a compilation is a pretty good bet. Music was still very ‘singles’ orientated (and I don’t mean un-partnered, he he) with albums commonly having ‘filler’. That can be heard on ‘Aretha Arrives’. So a package focussing on ’60s material is often a good thing indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks to other blogs and the Muscle Sholes doc, I’ve been slowly accumulating these Atlantic releases. “I Never Loved A Man The Way That I Love You” has been a tough one to find! This may be the push I need to take the online plunge.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good hunting! I’m sure you’ll be delighted.

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  8. i’ve never seen the Time magazine cover before, what a breakthrough for her.

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  9. I am a simple man. I see Aretha, I hit Like. There oughta be a Love one, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Or a facility for ‘like’ing something twice as much!

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  10. Great post, Bruce. I have to admit, my Aretha collection starts and stops with a best of compilation. Always been interested in picking up I Never Loved A Man The Way That I Love You and Spirit in the Dark, but I missed the opportunity. Guess it’ll be Discogs at some point.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks J. (Whisper: Mine are CDs)

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I think I mentioned I just watched a doc on Muscle Shoals. The Aretha segment was educating for CB. The combo of her and that band. Who would have thought. You cover a lot of bases Bruce.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Eclectic is my middle name. Just before ‘unfocused’. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. […] Aretha Franklin—I Never Loved A Man The Way That I Love You […]

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  13. What a great album.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. […] via R E S P E C T — VINYL CONNECTION […]

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