Top Artists – Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin – Soft and Beautiful

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  • Aretha’s wonderful 1969 release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • This 360 Stereo pressing offers lively and tonally correct sound, with Franklin’s soulful vocals well reproduced and especially Tubey Magical, as would be expected from a Columbia recording from 1964 
  • Clean pressings of this title are hard to come by – this one is about as quiet as any we played in our shootout
  • Mark Bego, in Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul, called it “the most consistently paced album of her later Columbia years.”

This vintage 360 Stereo LP has 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.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Aretha Franklin singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of older recordings (this one is now 50 years old), I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played can serve as a guide. (more…)

Aretha Franklin – Soul ’69

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  • Superb Double Plus (A++) sound brings Aretha’s underrated Soul Album from ’69 to life on this early Atlantic pressing – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • If you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful record, a vintage pressing like this one is the only way to go
  • Tough to find this quiet – Aretha made a lot of amazingly good records in the ’60s and they got played good and hard
  • “One of her most overlooked ’60s albums, on which she presented some of her jazziest material. Her vocals are consistently passionate and first-rate, as is the musicianship; players include the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, and respected jazzmen Kenny Burrell, Ron Carter, et al.”

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Aretha Franklin – Laughing On The Outside

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  • An excellent sounding copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful album, a vintage pressing like this one is the way to go
  • 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!
  • “She gives new songs like ‘I Wonder’ (for which Aretha wrote the words), ‘If Ever I Would Leave You’ and ‘I Wanna Be Around’ distinctive, unforgettable interpretations, the kind that set standards for time and singers to come.” – All Music

This Columbia 360 pressing has 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. (more…)

Aretha Franklin – Live at Fillmore West

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  • A superb pressing of this classic live Aretha album with nearly Triple Plus (A+ to A+++) sound throughout – just shy of our Shootout Winner – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Aretha’s cover of Bridge Over Troubled Water is truly amazing, but really, there’s not a weak track here – her covers of current material take those songs to another level entirely
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The music here sparkles and crackles with the energy of a top-flight rhythm section — Cornell Dupree on guitar, Bernard Purdie on drums, and Jerry Jemmott on bass, with Billy Preston on organ, Curtis on saxophone, and the Memphis Horns… the most dramatic and deeply satisfying of Aretha Franklin’s live recordings, and is a historical document that every soul fan should own…”

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Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul

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  • This superb copy of Aretha’s 1968 release boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout – reasonably quiet vinyl too 
  • Surprisingly rich, full-bodied and Tubey Magical, with plenty of natural ambience – Aretha’s vocals are present, breathy, and explosively dynamic
  • You’d need either a lot of copies, a lot of luck, or both, to come up with a pressing that sounds this good and plays this quietly
  • 5 stars: …an inspired blend of covers and originals from the best songwriters in soul and pop music…”

We’ve been playing a lot of Aretha Franklin records lately, working our way through her catalog, but it’s hard to find pressings that separate themselves from the pack to give you audiophile-friendly sound. Too many seem to be optimized more for the radio than for your hi-rez audio rig.

Every now and then, however, we luck into a copy that has the real soul magic in its grooves. On this album, that means Chain Of Fools and Aretha’s great version of Natural Woman will sound just the way you want them to. (more…)

Aretha Franklin – Spirit In The Dark

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  • You’ll find insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last on this original Atlantic pressing 
  • 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
  • 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
  • “Spirit in the Dark was one of Aretha Franklin’s more overlooked albums from her Atlantic prime, despite the inclusion of a couple hit singles (the title track and “Don’t Play That Song”)… it’s an exuberant and remarkably consistent effort.” – All Music

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Aretha Franklin – Hey Now Hey: The Other Side of the Sky

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Hey Now Hey: The Other Side of the Sky

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  • A STUNNING copy of Aretha’s 1973 release, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead on correct tonality, and wonderfully breathy vocals – everything that we listen for in a great record is here
  • An album of deep introspective soul produced by none other than Quincy Jones!
  • “… notable are a poignant cover of Bernstein’s ‘Somewhere,’ and a sparkling ‘Moody’s Mood,’ and the beautiful Carolyn Franklin composition ‘Angel.'”

This vintage Atlantic LP has 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.  (more…)

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…)