Before she lit up the pop and soul world while recording for Atlantic Records in the late '60s, Aretha Franklin spent several years at Columbia trying everything from adult pop to bluesy soul. The label compiled 17 tracks recorded from 1960-65 for her volume in the This Is Jazz series. Fans unfamiliar with her pre-Atlantic period might be surprised at the quality of the material and Aretha's voice, already belting out bluesy classics like "Today I Sing the Blues" and "Muddy Water" even while giving her own atmospheric gospel vision to "Skylark" and "Only the Lonely." Even while her backing bands veer through soul-jazz, blues figures, more stately jazz, and MOR pop, Aretha proves herself equal to the material time and time again. "God Bless the Child" is a special highlight.
AllMusic Review by John Bush