Bring It on Home: On Aretha Franklin's 'Soul '69'

Aretha Franklin's 'Soul '69'
Photo Credit
Atlantic Records

Have you ever heard Aretha Franklin’s album Soul ‘69? It’s only one of the best records Franklin ever made, and yet still gets overshadowed by a number of her other albums, acknowledged classics like Spirit in the Dark, Lady Soul and I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You. Such is the level of excellence of the Queen of Soul’s overwhelming oeuvre that an album as great as Soul ‘69 could seem underrated; one listen will tell you, though, that it’s every bit as good as those established high points.

If you’ve never heard Soul ‘69, you are in for a treat! Don’t believe us? Take a listen to these five tracks, then go find a copy of the album and dive in – you certainly will be glad you did.

“Today I Sing the Blues”

The circumstance of losing a lover never had a better voice than Franklin’s on this taut, powerful blues song.

“Crazy He Calls Me”

Before she came to Atlantic Records, Franklin sang torch songs and jazz standards for Columbia Records, experience that comes in handy on this lovely ballad. Billie Holiday had the definitive version, but Franklin’s comes in a close second.

“Bring It On Home to Me”

The first verse and chorus go by without incident; she’s taking the song out for a walk. But then the second verse comes in – “I know I laughed when you left,” it begins, and she bears down on it, tears it apart and reassembles it in such a manner that the syllables don’t matter. And that moment launches the song; it doesn’t come back down until the fadeout.

“If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody”

The song has an odd structure (one verse, sandwiched between two runs through the chorus) but it’s the perfect expression of hurt by a wronged woman – in this case, one who can address her situation with a power as great as the pain she feels.

“Gentle on My Mind”

Glen Campbell, Dean Martin, Patti Page - all of them fine singers; all had wrapped their voices around this great John Hartford song. None had done it quite like this, though - as a quick-tempo soul tune, with Evelyn Greene and Wyline Ivy echoing their words behind them. Splendid stuff.

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