Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Geek that I am, my idea of a fun thing to do on Labor Day was visit Princeton Record Exchange -- one of my favorite record stores. Large if spotty selection of music in multiple genres, large vinyl selection and LOTSA budget bins.

Having just watched some 3 hour doc on Krautrock I was kinda hoping to fill some of the holes in my collection as -- being patronized by WPRB DJs, and staffed by avant music freaks extraordinaire -- there's usually a healthy amount of deep prog and vintage psychedelia on hand. I was looking for the 1st 2 Kraftwerk album (pre "Ralf & Florian"), Amon Dull (not AD II), Kluster (before they changed their name to Cluster). Had no luck whatsoever.

Started browsing the Soul & R&B section - and likewise, struck out. So I headed over to the general budget bins and then the "Cheap R&B/Hip Hop" shelves. And hit some sweet paydirt. Outkast "Idlewild" (certainly lacked the immediate hit material of its predecessor but honestly SOLID - lotta great cathcy and imaginative tunes, out-there instrumental arrangements), Neville Brothers "Uptown Rulers" greatest hits (I don't know that I buy in quite yet but nicely full blooded readings of "Hey Pocky Way" and "Brother John/Iko Iko"), Warren G's (a G-funk architect)"The Return of the Regulator" (the earlier "Regulate" is a classic -- smoove as shizz, bursting with Atlanta Rhythm Section samples -- perfect Summer afternoon fare), 2006's "Testimony Vol 1" by Indie Arie -- a wonderful proponent of "acoustic soul" (great tunes but the lyrics -- (as Creighton from "Treme" would put it - "a celebration of the wonder that is ME!") and "Lady Soul" by Aretha Franklin.

Growing up, Aretha Franklin was pretty ubiquitous - heard her singles all the time. It was in the air. Didn't need to buy the albums coz I was hearing her all the time. Eventually got a two CD great hits package that served me well for many years. But have been feeling that I needed to expand my collection and start picking up her Atlantic recordings. I must admit, that "I Never Loved A man The Way I Love You" and "Aretha Arrives" didn't thrill me. Her vocal performances are great. The playing's funky, authoritative and distinctive. But the A&R...a little shakey - "96 Tears," "Satisfaction" on "Arrives" -- are just good. Not transcendent.

"Lady Soul" on the other hand plays like a mix tape of Aretha at her gritty, funky best. It's EXACTLY what you wanna hear when you wanna hear vintage Aretha and not one second of filler. Even the slow jams grind out as sweatily or tearfully as you could want.

I'm NOT knocking ANY of Aretha's releases -- but if I was going to give a non-believer one of those early albums confident that by record's end they'd be converted "Lady Soul" would be it.

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