JJ 03/74: Aretha Franklin – The First 12 Sides

Fifty years ago Barry McRae thought this queen of soul had more to do with jazz than some musicians considered as jazz specialists. First published in Jazz Journal March 1974


There are times when this Queen of Soul has more to do with jazz than some musicians considered as jazz specialists. She was barely eighteen when this record was made yet she ex­hibits the personal style and maturity of a far more experienced singer.

She cannot quite overcome the banality of Rainbow but, aided by jazzmen like Ray Bryant, Osie Johnson, Al Sears and Quentin Jackson, she gives an impres­sive account of herself. She is also helped by some good themes and, although the lyrics are not always too strong, she has a talent for giving even the more trite items a realism that we normally expect from a committed jazz singer.

Bryant plays well in this environment and the unlisted guitar on Sweet Lover is very bluesy. All the drummers have the difficult task of playing in this rudi­mentary soul style without monotony and, although all manage, it is Sticks Evans (particularly on Who Needs You) that really makes an art of it. I suspect that lots of readers will shy from an album like this but at the price it could serve to introduce them to a fertile field closely related to our music.

(d) Won’t Be Long; (a) Over The Rain­bow; (a) Love Is The Only Thing; (c) Sweet Lover; (b) All Night Long; (f) Who Needs You (15¼ min) – (a) Right Now; (f) Are You Sure; (f) Maybe I’m A Fool; (e) It Ain’t Necessarily So; (b) By Myself; (a) Today I Sing The Blues (16½ min)
Aretha Franklin (vcl) with:
(a) Ray Bryant (pno); Skeeter Best (gtr); Lord Westbrook (gtr); Bill Lee (bs); Osie Johnson (dm); Tyree Glenn (tbn). 1/8/60.
(b) Al Sears (ten); Quentin Jackson (tbn); Ray Bryant (pno); Lord Westbrook (gtr); Bill Lee (bs): Sticks Evans (dm). 17/11/60.
(c) Ray Bryant (pno); Bill Lee (bs); Belton Evans (dm); u/k gtr. 29/11/60.
(d) as (c) plus Aretha Franklin (pno). 29/11/60.
(e) as (c) plus Warren Luckey (ten); Lord West­brook (gtr). 19/12/60.
(f) Al Sears (ten); Lord Westbrook (gtr); Aretha Franklin (pno): Milt Hinton (bs); Sticks Evans (dm). 10/1/61.
(Embassy EMB 31006 90p)