Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul (2011)

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

A++ sound and quiet vinyl on both sides of this 1968 soul classic, an album that received a top Five Star rating from the All Music Guide! We’ve been playing a ton of Aretha Franklin records around here in recent days, but it’s hard to find pressing that separate themselves from the pack to give you audiophile-friendly sound for her recordings, which (naturally) seem to be optimized more for the radio than for your hi-rez audio rig. Every now and then, however, we’ll luck into a copy that delivers some real soul magic in its grooves, and this was one of those copies. Chain Of Fools and Aretha’s great version of Natural Woman sound JUST RIGHT. 

Most of the Aretha records we’ve played tend to be a bit too bright, which brings out a lot of grit, grain and edge. I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I can’t imagine that’s the sound the Queen Of Soul was going for. A copy like this gives you smoother, sweeter sound with a more natural tonal balance. It makes the music work so much better — the sound is easier on the ears and not nearly as fatiguing, plus it lets you turn up the volume good and loud without giving yourself a headache!

Side one is very open and transparent with lots of natural ambience. Aretha’s vocals sound excellent with lots of presence, breath and texture. There’s a ton of energy, and the overall sound is rich and full-bodied. We gave side one an A++.

Side two also earned an A++ grade. It’s not quite as impressive as the first side, but it beat the pants off the other side twos we heard, so we felt the “two plus” grade was appropriate. The difference between this and most copies was anything but subtle; this one was NIGHT AND DAY better. The sound is natural, clear and correct with incredible dynamics to the vocals. When Aretha’s really wailing, you’re going to FEEL it. And man, does it ever feel good.

Bottom line? You’d need either a lot of copies, a lot of luck or both to come up with a pressing that sounds this correct and plays this quietly on both sides!

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Chain of Fools Money Won’t Change You People Get Ready Niki Hoeky (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman

Side Two

Since You’ve Been Gone (Sweet Sweet Baby) Good to Me as I Am to You Come Back Baby Groovin’ Ain’t No Way

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

Appearing after a blockbuster debut and a sophomore set that was rather disappointing (in comparison), 1968’s Lady Soul proved Aretha Franklin, the pop sensation, was no fluke. Her performances were more impassioned than on her debut, and the material just as strong, an inspired blend of covers and originals from the best songwriters in soul and pop music… Powered by three hit singles (each nested in the upper reaches of the pop Top Ten), Lady Soul became Aretha Franklin’s second gold LP and remained on the charts for over a year.