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Thursday Notebook

By admin Published: January 31, 2008

Miss Ree

Let me explain this illustration, after the jump ...

Crazy week, including my rumination on "Lost" (link below), a rant about Disney's handling of the "Hannah Montana" concert movie (in tomorrow's Beacon Journal, link to come), the day-to-day stuff and a great beast of a project for Sunday that I finally managed to slay today. At least, I hope I did. More about that later. (Update: Maybe even later than I thought. The beast is now tentatively schediled for Monday's paper.) And I have to go diving into some DVDs tonight for my weekly column.

But among the things that are getting me through is the FABULOUS Aretha Franklin CD, "Rare & Unreleased Recordings From the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul," which I belatedly came across last night.

While I have cooled on some of her most recent recordings, for the most part I genuflect before Aretha and have done so since the '60s. And while this CD -- including demos, alternate takes and session leftovers -- is not a nonstop joy, it is often splendid, especially as a reminder of the days when it appeared that there was no song that Aretha could not make her own. As Dusty Springfield would ruefully admit, after Aretha covered "Son of a Preacher Man," Dusty started replacing some of her own phrasing with Aretha's.

Put it another way: I hate "My Way." I consider the song irredeemable. But here we have Aretha tackling it, and doggone if she didn't turn it into a fine little bit of herself. ("I've traveled, Lord only knows, how many many many many highways.") Almost as remarkable is the bluesy thing she makes of "My Cup Runneth Over." Yes, the Ed Ames song from 1967. My goodness.

All right, you may not rejoice over her treatment of Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" (even if it has some moments). And "Fool on the Hill," even in her jazzy treatment, seems beneath her gifts. But there are still plenty of joys.

Buy it. Download it. Live it.

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