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RESPECT - ARETHA'S INFLUENCES AND INSPIRATION

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ACE (CDCHD1214)

Otis Redding: Respect, Thelma Jones: House That Jack Built, Don Covay: See Saw, Jean Wells: Sit Down And Cry, Ben E King: Don't Play That Song, Brenda Holloway: Every Little Bit Hurts, Dinah Washington: Soulville, Big Maybelle: Pitiful, Bobby Bland: Share Your Love With Me, Helen Humes: Share Your Love With Me, Johnny Ace: My Song, Little Miss Cornshucks: Try A Little Tenderness, Jackie Wilson: I'm Wanderin', Percy Mayfield: The Rivers Invitation, Ray Charles: Drown In My Own Tears, James Carr: Dark End Of The Street, Mary Wheeler: Prove It, Wilson Pickett: I'm In Love, Howard Tate: Eight Days On The Road, Nina Simone: Young Gifted And Black, Bill Withers: Let Me In Your Life, Bobby Womack: That's The Way I Feel About ‘Cha, Dionne Warwick: I Say A Little Prayer, Clara Ward: The Day Is Passed And Gone.

Good idea this. A CD of original artist recordings that Aretha loved so much, she had to record them herself - not only giving her huge hits but in many cases, taking over the song and eclipsing the original. Songs like Otis Redding's all time classic "Respect" and Dionne Warwick's "I Say A Little Prayer" which, just nine months after Dionne had hit number four in the US charts, Aretha had surpassed with the massive worldwide success of her own version.

Audacious? Perhaps - but she recognised a good song when she heard it and knew what would work for her. She had her favourites, both contemporary and earlier stuff and she would stock-pile them until the time was right. "Pitiful", by Big Maybelle, "The River's Invitation", a huge hit for Percy Mayfield and Ray Charles' wonderful "Drown In My Own Tears" were all recorded in the 1950s but revived by Aretha in the 60s with great results.

The best thing about this CD is that it's sending me back to my Aretha albums to hear her versions and drawing my attention to tunes I'd overlooked like Wilson Pickett's "I'm in Love". I've also learned that it wasn't Otis Redding's version of "Try A Little Tenderness" that inspired Aretha. It turns out that it was Atlantic boss Ahmet Ertegun that introduced her to this stunning song by his all-time favourite blues singer, Little Miss Cornshucks.

One of my favourite Franklin soul ballads is the emotion wracked "Prove It" from the "Aretha Arrives" album so I was delighted to hear the original on this CD by Mary Wheeler, an obscure New York soul singer who made this little gem and a few others before quitting to start her own gospel label. Of course, no album of Aretha's influences could be complete without a true gospel track and the compiler at Ace has picked Clara Ward's impassioned "The Day Is Passed And Gone", a stark piece that Miss Franklin recorded early in her career and sang once again at Clara Ward's funeral.

This is a marvellous collection. It not only documents Aretha's sources of inspiration but also stands as a top class anthology of some of the best soul and R&B in the history of black music. It doesn't come better than that!

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Review Date: March 2009

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