I have no wish to put the cat among the pigeons, but I have to confess that I marginally prefer Aretha Now above the more widely celebrated I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You. As great as Aretha Franklin’s debut for Atlantic is, Aretha Now boasts a measure more lightness of touch and is perhaps slightly more accessible.
Opening with “Think”, a song she would record again for her show stealing appearance in the Blues Brothers film, Aretha Now sets off with a certain amount of bounce in its step and a self-confident swagger that many possess, but few deserve. Few deserve it more than Aretha Franklin, who, regardless of the heavy weight session players, writers and producers involved, stamps her authority throughout Aretha Now. Despite now being part of the Atlantic hit making machine and with an album cover that is the very definition of breezy pop-soul, there was a definite feeling that Franklin was regarded as the genuine talent she was, rather than an easily replaceable vocalist employed to put voice to the latest pop tune provided by their writers.
Being overshadowed by a more iconic release, Aretha Now is now an album primed for rediscovery by those who don’t look much beyond ‘Greatest Albums of All Time’ lists. Despite its brief duration, it’s loaded with great tunes, with her version of “I Say a Little Prayer” and “A Change” being two of Franklin’s finest songs from her golden period, and while “Think” is the only number for which she herself receives a writing credit, what a number it is!
Aretha Now is now an album which manages to combine the familiar with hidden gems, all within a short sharp and utterly refreshing blast of commercial soul. It’s an album that comes in, does everything that it needs to do and leaves you wanting more.