Aretha Franklin

You Grow Closer

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As the opening gun in MCA's new Peacock Gospel label program, You Grow Closer makes a fitting first entry. These are the very first recordings by a 16-year-old Aretha Franklin, recorded live in 1956 singing in her father's New Bethel Baptist Church and originally issued on the local Detroit JVB label and later on Chess' Checker subsidiary. Sometimes backed by the choir, at others by nothing more than her own piano and/or the church organ, this young woman's voice is already a familiar sound, her style well on its way to becoming fully formed. Her now-legendary penchant for worrying a phrase or a single note is already well-developed, and on tunes like the two-part "Precious Lord," can seemingly stretch a single hummed note for eternity. Every track is a gem, and the bonus inclusion of "Your Mother Loves Her Children" is just icing on this glorious sounding cake. She may be only be 16 years old on these recordings, but it's the sound of a woman three times that in experience and soulfulness. A must-hear by any yardstick you'd care to apply to it.

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