Aretha Franklin

Oh Me Oh My: Aretha Live in Philly, 1972

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This nearly hour-long live set captures Aretha Franklin -- the unmitigated Queen of Soul -- during a 1972 appearance at a National Association of Radio and Television Announcers function in the City of Brotherly Love. Franklin was cresting a secondary wave of success thanks to the crossover appeal of Aretha Live at Fillmore West (1971). Plus, her most recent studio offering Young, Gifted and Black (1972) also spawned a pair of Top Ten pop singles -- the funky opener "Rock Steady" and the jazzy "Day Dreaming," the latter of which is linked here in a medley alongside the 1968 hit "Think." Likewise, she combines a verse and chorus of her signature sides "I Never Loved a Man (The Way That I Love You)" and "I Say a Little Prayer"." Best of the lot however is the soul stirring coupling of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and "We've Only Just Begun." Franklin's piano playing -- which is somewhat sonically outsized by the backing orchestration -- is infectiously heartfelt. The vocal-less introduction is baptized in Franklin's gospel roots and without having to sing a note, she effortlessly punctuates the familiar melody with her trademark attitude and passion. It is additionally worth noting that Franklin offers fresh arrangements when compared to the performances of the previous year as heard on the aforementioned Aretha Live at Fillmore West. The assembled players shine on the update of Nina Simone's "Young Gifted and Black." Franklin's ferociously funky keys kick start the entire ensemble as they take full advantage of their chance to boogie. As the show winds down, Franklin seems to just be getting to the essence of her musical being. Most notably on the remake of Bobby Womack's "That's the Way I Feel About Cha" -- which is infinitely more impassioned here than the comparatively sterile reading that would turn up on her subsequent odds and sods LP Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky) (1973). Rounding out the evening is the ferocious and frenzied "Spirit in the Dark" as Franklin brings the house down with an intensity that rivals any previously known versions. Even those chronicled on the quadruple-disc Don't Fight the Feeling (2005) package which chronicles every note of the three-night run that yielded Aretha Live at Fillmore West. For Franklin enthusiasts, Oh Me Oh My: Aretha Live in Philly, 1972 is a worthy companion to that equally indispensable artifact.

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