When “Lady Soul” was released in early 1968, most listeners were awed by the intense, soulful song stylings of this amazing new singer named Aretha Franklin. This was her third album in less than one year for Atlantic Records, and in that short amount of time, she had changed the very essence of soul music.
Most of us hailed “The Queen of Soul” as a new artist. How surprised we would have been to discover that “Lady Soul” was Aretha’s fourteenth studio album, having released ten albums for Columbia Records and a debut on a regional label that dated all the way back to 1956! Aretha Franklin had over ten years professional experience before she signed with Atlantic, but she languished on the periphery of national recognition, due to Columbia’s inability to comprehend the nature of her talent. From 1960 to 1966, Columbia was not anybody’s idea of a ‘hip’ label. Those in charge despised rock and roll and catered to their own ideas of what was considered ‘tasteful’, or at least proper. For example, label head Mitch Miller made sing-along records to please the mainstream, an abomination that was justified simply because a lot of white middle-class families bought them. There was significant infighting before the label ‘lowered its standard’ to sign folk artists like Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel, and then rockers like the Byrds and Paul Revere and the Raiders. Those in charge simply had no idea what to do with an ethnic vocalist steeped in a deep gospel background, so they gave her arrangements that were intended to, in a sense, wash the ethnicity away.
Franklin required the vision of Atlantic’s Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun to be heard in a manner suitable to her natural instincts. They just knew that if they let Aretha be herself, then she would fly. Another fact that would have surprised the majority of Aretha’s newfound fans was that her band consisted almost completely of white musical chameleons from Memphis, Tennessee and the small town of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Wexler had recently discovered that these southern boys played incredibly well with artists like Percy Sledge and Wilson Pickett, and their soulfully instinctive styles were slowly becoming the sound of a new era. It was far from intentional, but Aretha and the boys from Fame and American Studios were about to set the world on its ear and help to launch a style that would define soul music for at least the next five years.
Featured tracks are;
Chain of Fools
Money Won’t Change You
People Get Ready
(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone
Good to Me As I Am to You
Come Back Baby
Ain’t No Way
January 1968 - Billboard Charted #1