Top Artists – Aretha Franklin

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! (more…)

Aretha Franklin – Amazing Grace – A Bit of Experimentation with VTA Can Really Pay Off

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This is a handy record for VTA setup, a subject we discuss at length below.

On the better copies Aretha’s vocals are as dynamic as any you will ever hear, and unlike all the records she did with Tom Dowd, her voice never breaks up on this record. If you have big speakers that can play at loud levels, with the right volume level you can really get Aretha to belt it out like nothing you have ever heard. 

Like most modern churches, the kind that have upholstered pews and lots of carpeting, the natural reverberation of the sound isn’t as pronounced as it would be were the recording taking place in a 16th century cathedral. (more…)

Aretha Franklin – Spirit In The Dark (2012)

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

Two incredible sides — an A+++ side one backed with an A++ to A+++ side two — for one of the best sounding albums Aretha recorded! We’ve done a ton of Aretha shootouts over the years and I’d put this one up with Amazing Grace as her top titles for sound. Everything we wanted from this music, this copy was DOIN’ IT, plain and simple. It’s lively, open, present and natural. The soundfield is big and spacious and the bottom end is killer. Aretha fans, you won’t want to miss out on this one! (more…)

Aretha Franklin – Young, Gifted and Black (2011)

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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. (more…)

Aretha Franklin – Laughing On The Outside (2011)

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

This Minty Original looking Columbia Two Eye Demo LP from 1963 has WONDERFUL sound. It’s sweet and spacious, and the vinyl plays quietly. I don’t think you could find either a better sounding copy of this record.

Aretha’s records for Columbia feature a more pop-oriented sound than her later works. This is a great record for those interested in checking out the early roots of one of the greatest singers of all time! 

Aretha Franklin – Aretha Arrives (Reviewed in 2012)

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

This Atlantic Green & Blue label pressing has TWO GOOD SIDES on relatively quiet vinyl. We pulled together enough clean copies for a big shootout recently and most of them sounded the way you’d probably expect — thin, bright, and grainy. This copy did a much better job of communicating the music, giving you the kind of life and energy this music needs to work its magic.    (more…)

Aretha Franklin – Aretha Now

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  • A superb sounding pressing of this vintage Atlantic label LP with Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Here is the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings barely begin to reproduce – folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back
  • Exceptionally QUIET vinyl for this stereo pressing – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, as quiet as any copy we have ever heard
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… this still caught Aretha Franklin at the peak of her early form. Think, I Say a Little Prayer, See Saw, and I Can’t See Myself Leaving You were all big hits.”

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Aretha Franklin – Soul ’69

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  • Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second for this White Hot 2-pack 
  • The overall sound here is incredibly rich, full and Tubey Magical with excellent clarity and a wonderfully extended top end
  • An incredibly tough album to find without condition issues; they’re usually beat
  • “Her vocals are consistently passionate and first-rate… as is the musicianship.”

This original Atlantic stereo pressing is a MONSTER, one of the best we’ve ever played. 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 the bad sound and groove distortion of the average copy 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.  

So many copies are smeary, recessed and lifeless you’d think you were playing a heavy vinyl reissue, not a real Atlantic original. 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 (assuming you can handle the surfaces).

This is the way of all good pressings. We’ve played thousands of them. (more…)