Aretha Franklin

The Essential 3.0: The Columbia Years

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Aretha Franklin has simply been one of the greatest singers of her generation, and whether bringing her powerful, passionate voice to bear on gospel standards, songs from the Great American Songbook, jazz standards, pop ditties, or deep Southern soul and R&B, she has always had the presence -- much like Ray Charles -- to make anything she touches unmistakably hers. Franklin began her career in gospel when she was still a teenager, and her amazing vocal talents, coupled with her fine piano playing, marked her as a once-in-a-lifetime kind of artist, qualities very apparent to legendary talent scout John Hammond, who signed her to Columbia Records. The problem Hammond and Columbia immediately ran into, though, was how to best present that spirited voice to the secular pop world. Between 1960 and 1969 (her first release for the label was actually in 1961), Columbia tried Franklin in a variety of styles and settings, and if none of them exactly caught fire the way her legendary later sides for Atlantic Records would, they still allowed Franklin to explore a lot of avenues, and she was too good a singer not to be at least memorable in all of them. This three-disc set (two full-length discs and a third but shorter bonus disc) collects some of the more essential and interesting tracks from her Columbia period -- take away the eight-track bonus disc and it’s the exact same set as the two-disc The Queen in Waiting: The Columbia Years 1960-1965 (right down to the cover art) from 2002.

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