Aretha Franklin “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You”

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#419 in the Series) is Aretha Franklin, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You

When Columbia Records signed the 18 year old Aretha Franklin in 1960 they must have been absolutely delighted. There was no doubt that the kid had tremendous talent and years of singing and playing gospel music along with her father and sisters had given her the confidence and experience to go with it. There was surely no doubt that she would go on, very soon, to be one of the biggest stars the label had ever had. Leaving her home in Detroit for New York to work with some of the finest musicians in the country as well as a certain John Hammond, Aretha herself could surely be forgiven for believing that this was her time, and that fame and fortune were just around the corner.

Well, things didn’t quite work out that way. Despite some terrific early sessions, produced by Hammond himself, commercial success proved elusive. Desperate for a hit, the label tried everything they knew. Different producers were drafted in and every style of music was tried (which was maybe part of the problem), from Blues to Girl-group pop, show tunes, standards from the Great American Songbook, you name it, they gave it a go. Nothing really took off. And it’s not as if the material being released was below par, far from it. Indeed, many fine sides were cut during the six years she was at the label and there were a good few standout performances captured, “Skylark” and “Today i Sing The Blues” being chief among them. For whatever reasons, it just didn’t happen and by 1966, Aretha’s time at Columbia was up.

Watching events closely, over at Atlantic Records, was a certain Mr. Jerry Wexler. A very astute guy, who knew talent when he heard it, Jerry had been a fan since Aretha’s earliest efforts. Round about this time he was doing a lot of work down south in Memphis and Muscle Shoals, with artists like Wilson Pickett and Percy Sledge. He knew the quality of the musicians down there and the unique qualities that they brought to the table. He also had a feeling that Aretha had a lot of untapped potential and a distinct inkling that putting the two together could produce something special. When Aretha became available, he swooped.

Due to a hectic schedule, Wexler first offered Aretha to Stax (with whom Atlantic had various licensing and publishing deals), Jim Stewart declined, he felt he had enough talent to be going on with. Wex then decided it was down to himself to get things rolling and a session was booked down at the FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, fast becoming a legendary place with a top notch bunch of session musicians on hand. Aretha and her then husband (and manager) Ted White flew down in January 1967 to begin work on the album.

What happened in the first recording session has become infamous and the subject of much speculation over the ensuing years.

Things got off to a great start though and the very first song they tried turned out to be an absolute classic. Everything just seemed to come together effortlessly and the title track “I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You” was in the can in short order. Dan Penn reckoned it was one of the finest moments he ever witnessed in a studio that day, when Aretha sat at the piano and started to sing, he was amazed. Playback revealed just how good the results were and the mood turned euphoric. One or two people produced a bottle, the session went on and..…..…….before long things turned ugly. Work started on the next track (Do Right Woman, Do Right Man) but by all accounts that’s when things started to fall apart. Someone apparently made an inappropriate remark to Aretha and her husband wasn’t too happy about it. Heated words were exchanged but eventually it all got calmed down and they pressed on. With the backing track recorded, Aretha had a couple of tries at the vocal but it wasn’t really coming together. Then the same “someone” as before either made a suggestive remark to Aretha or “pinched her butt” (accounts vary) and the bad feeling was back. When it all eventually calmed down again Aretha and Ted decided to head back to their hotel. Everyone had agreed that it was best to let things settle down overnight and start again the next day. Studio owner Rick Hall thought he had a better idea though and he decided to go to the hotel and try to get it sorted out , smooth things over. It didn’t quite work out like that and before long he and White were arguing again and things went from bad to worse…..

First thing next morning, Aretha and her husband were on a plane back to New York. Wexler was understandably very angry at all this but he quickly got things pulled together. Sessions were booked for February in NYC and some of the session men from Muscle Shoals flown up for them.

I think it’s fair to say that those sessions went pretty well ! ” I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You” was a smash hit from the moment it was released, it was an absolute classic, easily the best Soul album released until that point. It’s also one of those rare things, an album which contains no filler whatsoever. From superb originals like “Dr. Feelgood” and “Save Me” to covers which are easily the equal of the original versions . Her version of Sam Cooke’s ” A Change Is Gonna Come” simply has to be heard to be believed, awe inspiring. There are too many spine-tingling moments on here to start telling you about them, for me it’s one of the greatest albums ever made, in any genre.

Oh and how can I leave it without mentioning “Respect” ? It’s one of the very very best singles ever released , went straight to number one in both the R&B AND Pop charts, a sublime reading of Otis Redding’s song which (according to even Otis himself, “it’s her song now”) surpassed the original and became an anthem of the Civil Rights movement.

Wondrous.

— Stephen Dalrymple, Glasgow, Scotland

Track listing

  1. “Respect” (Otis Redding) 2:29
  2. “Drown in My Own Tears” (Henry Glover) 4:07
  3. “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” (Ronny Shannon) 2:51
  4. “Soul Serenade” (Curtis Ousley, Luther Dixon) 2:39
  5. “Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream” (Aretha Franklin, Ted White) 2:23
  6. “Baby, Baby, Baby” (A. Franklin, Carolyn Franklin) 2:54
  7. “Dr. Feelgood (Love Is a Serious Business)” (A. Franklin, White) 3:23
  8. “Good Times” (Sam Cooke) 2:10
  9. “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” (Dan Penn, Chips Moman) 3:16
  10. “Save Me” (Ousley, A. Franklin, C. Franklin) 2:21
  11. “A Change Is Gonna Come” (Cooke) 4:20

Personnel

  • Aretha Franklin – Piano, Vocals
  • King Curtis – Tenor saxophone
  • Carolyn Franklin – Background Vocals
  • The Sweet Inspirations – Background Vocals
  • Willie Bridges – Baritone saxophone
  • Charles Chalmers – Tenor saxophone
  • Gene Chrisman – Drums
  • Tommy Cogbill – Bass
  • Jimmy Johnson – Guitar
  • Melvin Lastie – Trumpet, Cornet
  • Chips Moman – Guitar
  • Dewey Oldham – Keyboards

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Posted by Stephen Dalrymple
I was so much older then , i'm younger than that now.........


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