Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Natural Woman & Other Hits
Genres: Pop, R&B, Gospel
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A Good Sampler
Gregor von Kallahann | 01/09/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I would agree with the young reviewer who posted a favorable review of this album back in 2002 that this collection could be a very good intro to Aretha's music. It covers the period from the mid-60s to the mid-70s, which many would describe as her peak years. The same label released at least one other Aretha collection, so you can guess that the superhits are going to parceled out over the course of several records. That's fine, since it gives listeners a taste of what else the artist can do.
Of course, one thing that "best of" collections often throw in are cover versions of songs that were hits for OTHER artists. With a singer like Aretha, there will be fans who will champion her versions over the originals, and these are always debatable issues. Unlike the previous reviewer, however, there is no way that I would give Aretha's version of "Son of A Preacher Man" higher marks than Dusty Springfield's hit version of same. A bit too much overkill on a song that begs for subtlety and sultriness, I'd say. Similarly, I would have to disagree with the author of this album's liner notes, who claims that Aretha's take on "I Say A Little Prayer" is superior to Dionne Warwick's hit version. Beg your pardon, but NO WAY. It's an interesting take on a classic song, but again, it requires more elegance than hoopla. Soulful whoops on a Bacharach/David number are pretty much out of place. Besides it's really the Sweet Inspirations who carry this version of the song. Aretha practically bows out of the chorus. (By now, you're probably think I'm actually lying when I say her version IS interesting. Believe me, there was a time when I actively disliked it, but now I kind of have an understanding of what she was up to, and yes, I have come to appreciate it, but no, I do NOT find it superior to la Warwick's.)
I also have some arguments with her interpretations of some other pop classics. Her take on the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" is downright odd. Why turn it into a FIRST person narrative--"I'm Eleanor Rigby"--it almost doesn't make sense, since Eleanor DIES. Is this a voice from beyond the grave. You could also quibble with some of the deletions and alterations to the text of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," (there's just something a little awkward about the "sail on, silverboy" line; I dunno) but then again, if Paul Simon was actually thinking of Aretha when he wrote it, then he certainly got his wish.
But this is beginning to sound like a negative review, and it's not meant to be. Aretha has had any number of ups and downs over the course of her lengthy career. This sampler shows her in her prime and at her most assured. With so many packages out there, it's hard to recommend just one. But the title track "A Natural Woman" is one of her classics, and "Rock Steady" and "Nothing Like the Real Thing" are essential tracks as well. You could do a lot worse.