(…) in 1961 Aretha Franklin was 18 years old and about to be discovered by John Hammond of Columbia. Hammond did many great things, no doubt. But why put her with a jazz guy, pianist Ray Bryant on Aretha Franklin with the Ray Bryant Combo wasn’t one of them? She was a soul woman, a Gospel singer whose sole and sense of self sounded secular, she was a female Ray Charles to a degree, so at ease testifying for her own rightness and stuck on songs that weren’t right for her.
(…) With 12 songs and 34 minutes in length, the album feels like a fishing expedition, unsure where to land, not a million miles from mid-1960s Impressions it covers itself every which way and sure, a showcase is a showcase, but there is a huge set of skills with Aretha that would turn the civil rights movement vanguard on its ear before the decade was over, and it is only tantalizingly close to the surface here.
The name “aretha” is set in Clarendon, with all smaller text set in the Bold and Bold Condensed weights of Venus – a great face but it feels sligtly misplaced, outdated on this cover.