Lady Soul

Lady Soul

Lady Soul was Aretha Franklin’s first bona fide smash album, thanks in no small part to a trio of hit singles: “Chain of Fools,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” and “Sweet Sweet Baby (Since You’ve Been Gone),” all of which would land in the Top 10. But it was also the album that solidified Franklin’s creative relationship with Atlantic Records, the label where she would enjoy a remarkable creative and commercial run. Looking back at Franklin’s output in the 1960s and 1970s, it almost feels implausible that one woman was this incredibly talented. But the records don’t lie. And while Franklin had the best musicians behind her, her success was largely due to her spectacular voice—one she used with perfect control and tone—and with her own unwavering creative vision. Indeed, Franklin had arrived at the Lady Soul sessions with a vision of how she wanted the songs to sound. Arif Marden, who was listed as the arranger of “Chain of Fools,” insisted that she showed up to sing with the song’s chart already in her head; he also claimed that the gorgeous introduction to “Natural Woman,” played by Spooner Oldham, was also Franklin’s idea. The singer’s presence in the studio was so formidable that, when Cream’s Eric Clapton dropped by, he was invited to add a guitar part to “Good to Me as I Am to You”—but was too intimidated to do it in front of Franklin (he had to come back the next day, when she wasn’t around, in order to finish his part). But this anecdote is honestly irrelevant to the quality of this record, which rests on Queen Aretha’s tremendous performance.

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