Aretha Franklin – Young, Gifted and Black (2011)

More Aretha Franklin

More Young, Gifted and Black

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This Atlantic pressing is a MONSTER, easily one of the best we’ve ever played, and unusually quiet to boot. You will have a very tough time finding a copy with even one side this good, let alone two. The music, of course, is top notch — and it’s even better when you don’t have bad sound or crappy vinyl getting in the way. I imagine the Queen Of Soul herself would be very impressed with the way she sounds on this White Hot Stamper pressing.  

This WONDERFUL album of Aretha’s is very possibly her most consisent from the period, but it’s sure a tough nut to crack sonically. So many copies are smeary, recessed and lifeless you’d think you were playing a heavy vinyl reissue, not a real Atlantic original. And no matter how hard you try, there just do not seem to be any copies with quiet surfaces and clean inner grooves.

But when you get a lovely copy such as this, the music comes to life in front of you and the shortcomings quietly recede into the background. This is the way of all good pressings. We’ve played thousands of them. (We might call them Hot Stampers but let’s face it, “good pressings” is just as accurate, if not quite as catchy.)

Side One

Side one was DYNAMIC as hell — it’s a bit of a shock to hear a pop record with such lively vocals. What happened to the limiters and compressors, did somebody forget to patch them in? On this copy the loud parts work; sometimes Aretha just gets screechy, but not here. Lovely tape hiss and three-dimensional soundstaging help a lot. The one shortcoming: a slight lack of richness in the mids. It’s the rare copy that will give you almost everything. We might not find one for years. A++ is our grade.

Side Two

As Good As It Gets, baby! Big and spacious with incredibly transparency and amazing immediacy to the vocals. The sound is just right from top to bottom, giving you all of the magic of side one and then some!

Inner Groove Distortion

It’s on every copy we played. The last 1/8″ to 1/4″ will have some. Check the Sonic Grade tab to see how this one fared.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby) 
Day Dreaming 
Rock Steady 
Young, Gifted And Black 
All The King’s Horses 
A Brand New Me

Side Two

April Fools 
I’ve Been Loving You Too Long 
First Snow In Kokomo 
The Long And Winding Road 
Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) 
Border Song (Holy Moses)

AMG Review

It’s nearly impossible to single out any of Aretha Franklin’s early ’70s albums for Atlantic as being her best, particularly given the breadth of her output during this era. In terms of albums rather than singles, it’s probably her strongest era, and if you count live albums like Amazing Grace, choosing a standout or a favorite record isn’t any easier. Yet of this stunning era, Young, Gifted & Black certainly ranks highly among her studio efforts, with many arguing that it may be her greatest. And with songs like “Rock Steady,” that may be a valid argument. But there’s much more here than just a few highlights. If you really want to go song by song, you’d be hard-pressed to find any throwaways here — this is quite honestly an album that merits play from beginning to end.