LIVE from Your Speakers: Aretha Franklin, ARETHA IN PARIS

Thursday, May 14, 2020
Aretha Franklin ARETHA IN PARIS Cover

The Olympia Theatre in Paris holds about 2,800 people and you have to think it was pretty full on May 7, 1968, when Aretha Franklin – fresh off the back-to-back-to-back triumphs of I NEVER LOVED A MAN THE WAY THAT I LOVE YOU, ARETHA ARRIVES and LADY SOUL – brought her exceedingly tight band to play an evening of Southern R&B for a very European crowd. If 1968’s ARETHA IN PARIS is any indication, they got a wonderful show.


Of course, Franklin was an incredible interpreter of others’ material. Right at the top, she covers the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” as Otis Redding had done three years earlier, lending her voice to a song that few at that moment knew would become iconic. This was, however, just the warm-up. 


Franklin’s take on Willie Nelson’s “Night Life” (made famous by countrypolitan singer Ray Price) is a straight-up, horn-spiked blues, and Franklin uses the verses merely as guides for her delivery, filling up any space with extra phrases, stray interpolations that build into an interpretation of the song that is unique, and very much her own. 


Her fine band gets into the act during her take on the Young Rascals’ “Groovin’.” The rhythm section plays with that groove, goosing Franklin’s delivery along to the point where she hands them the wheel. So moved is she by their playing, she calls out the band in the middle of the song, letting them continue the vamp that holds up her vocal, while cluing in the crowd on their synergy. During Franklin’s singular version on Carole King’s “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman,” she returns the favor, getting behind the beat and nudging the band into a near-perfect rendition of the song.


Elsewhere on the record, Franklin sets fire to “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” takes an easy slide through “Soul Serenade,” and testifies with full voice in the set-closing “Respect,” sounding just as energetic and forceful at the end of the evening as she did at the beginning.


This was Aretha Franklin at the top of her game, with material worthy of her prodigious talents. Play ARETHA IN PARIS – again

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