Aretha Franklin

In Box


Aretha Franklin

Take a Look: Aretha Franklin Complete on Columbia (Columbia)

"I ain't had no lovin'/Since you know when/He's a lonesome old rooster/And I'm a lonesome hen." So crows 18-year-old Aretha Franklin on the first song of her 1961 Columbia Records debut. "Won't Be Long," wanton exuberance in the (broken) mold of Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman," thus represents perhaps the apex of March's 11-CD Take a Look: Aretha Franklin Complete on Columbia. On a 15-minute bonus DVD, five songs recorded live on Johnny Carson precursor The Steve Allen Show, Franklin looses a distracted reading of the song, but on wax, she breaks a sweat – yours. Nine LPs later (miniature record reproductions in a minibox, plus bonus tracks and mono mixes), the second of two compilations picks up that initial scent on the final seven tracks Franklin cut for the label with staff producer Bob Johnston. Everything the singer/pianist would become at Atlantic Records beginning directly thereafter with 1967's I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You and debut No. 1 "Respect" suddenly comes into stained-glass focus where it rarely had on Columbia. Carnegie-blooded talent scout John Hammond, who lured Franklin out of her father's church in Detroit, puts it best on an outtake from "Won't Be Long" sponsor Aretha (With the Ray Bryant Combo): "That was wonderful," he gushes through the studio glass after Franklin lays into a tune by another of Hammond's "discoveries," Billie Holiday's "Who Needs You?." Innumerable parallels occur throughout Take a Look, including "Blue Holiday" spinning Christmas in July on The Electrifying Aretha Franklin (1962), and a pre-Otis Redding "Try a Little Tenderness" on The Tender, the Moving, the Swinging. Even as Columbia quickly loses sight of the trees, forest, and New York City skyline, Franklin's innate vocal grandeur still bests all but the periodic table of elements. The desperate Runnin' Out of Fools (1964) rides the darkest horse here all the way to the bank with limpid covers à la Burt Bacharach and Hal David's pooling "Walk on By." Wrote Hammond in his autobiography: "When her five-year contract with Columbia ended, I was not unhappy to see her go to Atlantic. I knew Jerry Wexler, who would produce her records there, and was sure he would return her to the gospel-rooted material she should be recording."


A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Aretha Franklin
Naked City
Naked City
Headlines and happenings from Austin and beyond

Aug. 11, 2006

Music for the Eyes
Music for the Eyes
Annie Leibovitz's portraits of American musicians reveal her true oeuvre

Margaret Moser, July 8, 2005

More Music Reviews
Saturday ACL Fest 2018 Record Reviews
Trampled by Turtles
Life Is Good on the Open Road (Record Review)

Doug Freeman, Oct. 12, 2018

Texas Platters
Blues Grifter (Record Review)

Alejandra Ramirez, Sept. 28, 2018

More by Raoul Hernandez
Gary Clark Jr. Packs Antone’s for Spotify Exclusive Event
Gary Clark Jr. Packs Antone’s for Spotify Exclusive Event
Homegrown bluesman debuts This Land

Feb. 12, 2019

Austin Terror Fest Drops the Big One
Austin Terror Fest Drops the Big One
Third year comer triples down at Empire & Barracuda June 7-9

Jan. 23, 2019


Aretha Franklin

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle