From a modern perspective, it’s staggering to look back at the career of Aretha Franklin and realised that at the point in her career in 1967, when I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You was released, it was in fact her eleventh full length album since 1961. Franklin had already recorded ten albums for Columbia, however she’d struggled to achieve the level of success that her talent deserved.
Frustrated by the failure to fulfil her potential at Columbia, part-way through ’67 Franklin made the jump to the Atlantic label. With the backing of Atlantic, super-producer Jerry Wexler, and a crack team of the finest session musicians the decade had to offer, Franklin would record an album at Muscle Shoals that would finally provide her with the breakthrough hit she deserved.
While her status as a vocalist of extraordinary depth and emotion had never been in doubt, Franklin had never been lucky enough to have access to all the ingredients she required to record an album worthy of her talent. With I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, the songs, the band, the production and Franklin’s self-confidence collided head on to make one of the most iconic albums of her career.
I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You also proved to be a timely release, as the music industry was starting to cotton onto the fact that the album, rather than the single, was going to be the format that would make or break an artist’s career. While the album boasted a couple of big hit singles with a cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect” and the title track, the shift towards a more consistent album-length release emphasised that Franklin’s career was not going to be restricted to hit singles, but that her ambition extended to her being considered among the very elite of musical acts.
The second half of I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You is as good a side of vinyl as you could ever hope to hear, with “Dr. Feelgood (Love Is a Serious Business)”, “Good Times”, “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man”and “Save Me” displaying Franklin’s range, as it pings between a number of styles, before “A Change Is Gonna Come” closes the album with a drop dead classic soul torch-ballad.
With I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You Aretha Franklin had released an album that had fulfilled her potential in just over half an hour and in doing so had cemented her reputation which endures to this day.