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Rhino announces career-spanning Aretha Franklin box set

Aretha available on Nov 20th

To say that Aretha Franklin was one of the greatest American artists of all time is an understatement. Her multi-octave voice moved millions around the world during an unrivaled career that spanned six decades and garnered the singer-songwriter every achievement and honor imaginable. Her reign as the Queen of Soul will play out across four discs on a new boxed set from Rhino that is the first to span her entire career, including songs from every label she recorded with.

Aretha arrives on November 20 on 4 CD and digitally. Among the collection’s 81 newly remastered tracks, 19 are making their CD and digital debuts, including alternate versions of classic hits, demos, rarities, and live tracks, like her stunning performance of “(You Make Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman” at The 38th Annual Kennedy Center Honors in 2015. To put Franklin’s life and career into perspective, the collection is accompanied by liner notes written by Rochelle Riley, author and director of arts and culture for the City of Detroit, and David Nathan, a music journalist and soul historian who interviewed Franklin more times than any other living writer. The collection also features stunning artwork by celebrated artist Makeba KEEBS Rainey, who provides her signature style to a classic portrait of the Queen of Soul by renowned photographer Neal Preston. Rhino’s new boxed set will arrive shortly before the premiere of Respect, the highly anticipated biopic about Franklin’s life starring Jennifer Hudson. Both single CD and 2 LP versions featuring 20 highlight tracks from the box will also be available on the same day.

Arranged in mostly chronological order, Aretha opens with “Never Grow Old” and “You Grow Closer,” which were released as her first single in 1956 by J.V.B Records. Notably, she recorded these gospel songs at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, where her father, C. L. Franklin, was the longtime pastor.

The next ten songs focus on the period between 1960 and 1966 when Franklin was signed to Columbia Records. The music includes her first single with the label (“Today I Sing The Blues”), her first single to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 (“Won’t Be Long”), plus the Top 40 R&B hits “Runnin’ Out Of Fools,” “One Step Ahead” and “Cry Like A Baby.”

The majority of Aretha is dedicated to her record-shattering tenure with Atlantic Records between 1967 and 1979, which included five consecutive No. 1 R&B albums. In fact, the first two unreleased songs on the collection – “My Kind Of Town (Detroit Is)” and “Try A Little Tenderness” – are home demos that she recorded in 1966 to give Atlantic executive and producer Jerry Wexler an idea of possible material for her debut LP for label. “My Kind Of Town (Detroit Is)” finds Franklin replacing the classic “Chicago” lyric from the Sinatra version of the song with a callout to her hometown of Detroit. The track is available digitally.

Franklin’s biggest hits are here too, like “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You),” “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone” and her signature smash, “Respect.” But instead of using familiar takes for other hits, the collection selects different versions, like alternate takes of “Chain Of Fools,” “Rock Steady,” and “Spanish Harlem”; live recordings of “Baby I Love You” and “Don’t Play That Song”; and “Think” recorded for The Blues Brothers soundtrack.

Her early 70s collaboration with producer Quincy Jones is revisited with a trio of unreleased recordings including the Franklin original “The Boy From Bombay” and a stunning alternate version of her take on the Sondheim and Bernstein classic “Somewhere.”

Aretha also shines a spotlight on her best work with Arista Records between 1980 and 2007. Standouts from this era include hits like “Jump To It” and “Freeway Of Love.” This period also featured a number of memorable collaborations including “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” with Eurythmics and the No. 1 hit “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” with George Michael.

Even for longtime fans, Aretha delivers plenty of surprises. Prime examples are the numerous unreleased work tapes and demos for hits like “Angel,” “Until You Come Back To Me” and “Brand New Me.” The set also features the CD and digital debuts of several television appearances, including duets with Tom Jones (“It’s Not Unusual/See Saw”), Smokey Robinson (“Ooo Baby Baby”) and Dionne Warwick (“I Say A Little Prayer.”) Finally, the collection rounds up rarities like her cover of Donny Hathaway’s “Someday We’ll All Be Free” from the Malcom X soundtrack and her jaw-dropping live performance of “Nessun Dorma.”

4 CD | 2 LP

CD 1:

1. Never Grow Old
2. You Grow Closer
3. Today I Sing The Blues
4. Won’t Be Long
5. Are You Sure
6. Operation Heartbreak
7. Skylark
8. Runnin’ Out Of Fools
9. One Step Ahead
10. (No, No) I’m Losing You
11. Cry Like A Baby
12. A Little Bit Of Soul
13. My Kind Of Town (Detroit Is) – Demo [Previously Unreleased]
14. Try A Little Tenderness – Demo [Previously Unreleased]
15. I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)
16. Do Right Woman – Do Right Man
17. Respect
18. A Change Is Gonna Come
19. Chain Of Fools – Alternate Version
20. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – UK Single Version
21. (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone
22. Ain’t No Way
23. My Song
24. You Send Me
25. The House That Jack Built
26. Tracks Of My Tears

CD 2:

1. Baby I Love You – Live
2. Son Of A Preacher Man
3. Call Me – Alternate Version [Previously Unreleased]
4. Let It Be
5. Young, Gifted And Black – Alternate Longer Take [Previously Unreleased]
6. Bridge Over Troubled Water – Long Version
7. It’s Not Unusual/See Saw – with Tom Jones (Originally Broadcast On This Is Tom Jones, October, 9, 1970) [Previously Unreleased]
8. You’re All I Need To Get By – Work Tape [Previously Unreleased]
9. Brand New Me – Work Tape [Previously Unreleased]
10. Spanish Harlem – Alternate Mix [Previously Unreleased]
11. Rock Steady – Alternate Mix/Take
12. Day Dreaming
13. Share Your Love With Me – Live
14. Don’t Play That Song – Live
15. Dr. Feelgood – Live
16. Spirit In The Dark (Reprise with Ray Charles) – Live
17. How I Got Over (Single Edit) – Live
18. Master Of Eyes (The Deepness Of Your Eyes)

CD 3:

1. Somewhere – Alternate Version [Previously Unreleased]
2. Angel – Work Tape [Previously Unreleased]
3. The Boy From Bombay [Previously Unreleased]
4. Til It’s Over – Demo [Previously Unreleased]
5. Oh Baby” (a.k.a. There’s Something Magic About You) – Demo [Previously Unreleased]
6. Until You Come Back To Me – Work Tape [Previously Unreleased]
7. I’m In Love – Alternate Vocal
8. Without Love
9. Mr. D.J. (5 For The D.J.)
10. You
11. Something He Can Feel
12. Look Into Your Heart
13. Break It To Me Gently
14. When I Think About You
15. Almighty Fire (Woman Of The Future)
16. Ladies Only – Short Version
17. You Light Up My Life [Previously Unreleased]
18. Ooo Baby Baby – with Smokey Robinson [Previously Unreleased] (Originally Broadcast On Soul Train, December 1, 1979)
19. Amazing Grace (Originally Broadcast On Royal Variety Performance, November 23, 1980)

CD 4:

1. Think
2. I Say A Little Prayer with Dionne Warwick [Previously Unreleased]
3. United Together
4. Jump To It
5. The Wind
6. Freeway Of Love
7. Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves – Eurythmics & Aretha Franklin
8. I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) – Aretha Franklin and George Michael
9. Oh Happy Day – with Mavis Staples (Live at New Bethel Baptist Church, Detroit, MI – July 1987)
10. A Rose Is Still A Rose
11. Someday We’ll All Be Free
12. The Makings Of You
13. Nessun Dorma – Live
14. At Last – with Lou Rawls (Originally Broadcast On American Soundtrack: Rhythm, Love And Soul, March 2003) [Previously Unreleased]
15. You’ve Got A Friend – Ronald Isley featuring Aretha Franklin
16. Rolling In The Deep – The Aretha Version
17. My Country ’Tis Of Thee
18. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” – Live (Originally Broadcast On The 38th Annual Kennedy Center Honors, December 19. 2015) [Previously Unreleased]

Author: Buddy Iahn

Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites.