City Slang: “Lady Soul” revisited

Lady Soul, released back in ‘68, was Aretha Franklin’s second R&B chart-topping album. It’s not hard to see why the masses took to the record when looking down the track-listing, but it would be a mistake to think that this album is little more than Aretha-goes-pop. This thing burns.

Listening to Aretha for the purpose of a review. Judging her singing in any way, is almost a redundant exercise nowadays. Not quite, but almost. It’s like judging Dylan’s lyrics. We can like it or not like it, but who really cares?

So here we get the hits – magnificent runs through the Don Covay-penned “Chain of Fools” and the hair-raising “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman” (co-written by Carole King), plus Franklin’s own “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone”.

Those songs sound incredible to this day; timeless. In fact, there isn’t a moment on this album that isn’t beautiful. Unlike the divas of today (Godawful beasts like Celine Dion and Mariah Carey), Franklin doesn’t waste a note. Everything that comes out of her mouth means something.

This writer’s personal favorite track here is “Come Back Baby”, previously recorded by Ray Charles but performed a little faster here. It’s lively, jostling, yet still startlingly emotional. That’s Aretha in a nutshell.

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