Aretha Franklin | A Woman Falling Out Of Love

Aretha Franklin - A Woman Falling Out Of Love

Aretha Franklin
A Woman Falling Out of Love
(Aretha’s Records)
by A. Scott Galloway

For every longstanding fan that has been waiting for The Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin to turn back the hands of time and deliver an album of goose bump-raising performances, this is the answer to every little prayer you’ve said. Talk about inspired. Sister Franklin has been clandestinely finessing this 12-song labor of love for many years, producing much of it herself and giving every component two bosoms worth of tender loving care. The lady gives you just about everything you could ever possibly want to hear from her at this stage of her career – sassy jazz, eyebrow raising blues, dreamy pop, pews-lifting gospel and more. It’s like a first class tray pass of samples from her glorious past – a little Amazing Grace, a lil’ Sparkle, a lil’ Let Me In Your Life, a lil’ Jump To It, a lil’ Laughing on the Outside and a lil’ Live at Fillmore West – except all of the performances are new. The one shining constant is that Aretha is singing every song (except one) with a consistency of fervor and connection that leaves even the listener breathless. Just when one song ends on such a thrilling finale that you KNOW must be the end, here comes another to whisk you on a further thrill ride.

A Woman Falling Out of Love is an album split near squarely between rapturous love songs and balms of healing for when love affairs fail. In her press materials, Franklin states that the package – from the music inside to the cover photograph outside – is dedicated to her sisters in the name of love all trying to find that happy ending when the storybook closes and she can exhale, “This is for Real.” Of the dazzling photo she says:

“OK ladies take a good look at the photo of me on this album; this is how you’re supposed to look when you’re a woman falling out of love. Don’t sit by the phone waiting for him to call you, girlfriend; I want you to listen very closely to the lyrics of the songs on this album and you’ll hear a few good tips. Go out and have a ball! – Love Always, Ree Ree”

The rapture begins right from song #1, “How Long I’ve Waited,” all about love’s sweet arrival that was written and produced by Ms. Franklin. The arrangement is lush yet spacious – like a sketch of Eden – with sections that literally just float like a cloud in blue sky with no need of a solo – instrumental or vocal. Aretha gets so caught up in this Calgon moment that she even allows for a little studio magic that has her singing a couple of adoring passages without taking a breath. Queens have their privileges.

Next she salutes her longtime friend and peer in music royalty B.B. King – “King of the Blues”- with a version of his classic “Sweet Sixteen.” Ree Ree SANGS The Blues – all the way! With an arrangement she cooked up with the great H.B. Barnum, tasteful guitar from Teddy Richards and Aretha accompanying herself at the piano, it is as down home and uptown show time as you can get.

“This You Should Know” is the first of the heartbreakers, a dignified goodbye song once again featuring Ree at the piano, this time pouring her heart out to a mysterious lover she calls “Area Code 323” (which is in Los Angeles for “Enquiring” minds that needs ta know) with a fantasia of background Aretha’s creating her one-woman Sweet Inspirations. Handkerchiefs will wave in solidarity.

“U Can’t See Me” is gonna have Anita Baker, Regina Belle AND Mary J. Blige running rings around their stereos in R.E.S.P.E.C.T. as Aretha drops in with some deep new 411 dish for Kitty, kickin’ an unsuitable suitor to the curb with a killin’ contemporary scat jazz jam loaded with hip hop lingo, custom penned and produced for The Queen by Curtis Boone. Cold-blooded chorus: “I’m not into fake philosophy, pop psychology / I know you think you’re deep but, honey, U can’t see me!” It’s enough to send a diva back to her girlhood storybooks.

Fairy tales do come true on her splendorous and nostalgic “Theme from ‘A Summer Place’” where once again a swirl of Arethas revel in the idyllic enchanted forest of amour. The song is graced with spoken poetry passages that will bring to mind Arthur Prysock’s recitations of Walter Benton’s This is My Beloved – the one at the end by Aretha…and the mid-song one by a very special guest whose voice ladies will know and love – instantly. I wouldn’t dare spoil the surprise…

The next song is the one problematic piece of the program – a duet version of “The Way We Were” between Aretha and Ron Isley – friends since their teen years. A take no prisoners production and arrangement by the late Marty Paich serves as a soundtrack to Aretha basically mopping up the place with Ron who sticks to the soft serve creamery of his beloved Burt Bacharach collaboration as Aretha sings her love to the rafters. Was he deferring to Aretha on her record or simply unable to rise to her occasion? You be the judge…but the ending of this superstar match-up waxes anti-climactic.

“New Day” is a contemporary uplift anthem co-penned by her son Kecalf Franklin Cunningham with Norman West set to rhythm machine claps and blessed with more harmonized Ree Rees as she coaches, “Take your time and get it right / Not overnight but in due time.”

“Put it Back Together Again” – a solo Norman West creation – is simply – sumptuously – WARM and WONDERFUL – a song of soul searching and ultimate renewal that will soothe hearts for millenniums to come. Somewhere in Heaven, Luther is mouthing the words, “SHUT UP!!”

Time for church! And Aretha takes you there with Karen Clark-Sheard who holds her own, toe to toe, with Sister Queen Ree. This is glorious orchestral gospel, produced by Sanchez G. Harley (with Jacqui Whittman and Ay’Ron Lewis) complete with voices arranged by Richard Smallwood and Nathan Young and reverent piano by MD Derrick Lee as the ladies harmonize as well as trade testimony back and forth about the unwavering blessings of being “Faithful.” This is a production so grand that it took a studio in Nashville AND a studio in Detroit to bring it all to fruition. The performance builds so mightily that Aretha even speaks in tongues – Amazing Grace, indeed.

Church on a more intimate scale continues with “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” sung with distinctive heart and soul by Aretha’s son Eddie Franklin – holding notes and ascending to clear clean falsetto – one proud mama at the piano and Darrell Houston at the organ.

Is it over yet? Heavens no. Now with all blessings duly accounted for, Aretha sings what I dare say is the most deliciously poetically sensual song of her career, “When 2 Become One,” another Curtis Boone composition and production that surely pleased her majesty.

Over a luscious bed of voices that sound suspiciously like Take 6 under the covers, Aretha rhapsodizes as if in erotically ecstatic flight:

“I’m the flesh of your flesh, the bone of your bone / As we experience heights of pleasure unknown / Like a neck-a-lace upon your neck as I lay upon your chest until the morning sun / It’s so beautiful when 2 become one / I’m crazy about the way that you’re servin’ me / Ever so tenderly…you take your time with me / Never no need to rush / I’ll melt at your touch / I want you to keep exploring me / Searching out the deep secrets of my femininity / I’m feeling you when you’re into me…”

(Sip night stand hot toddy here.)

NOW is it over? Uh-Uh…there’s still one more to go. A magnificent “revisitation” to her historic patriotic benediction of “My Country `Tis of Thee” as sung at the 2008 Inauguration of President Barack Obama. You remember THAT, right? `Nuff said.

Aretha Franklin – The Queen of Soul – an 18-time Grammy-winner whose anointed voice and timeless songs have rocked the multitudes in every conceivable style and genre – has nothing to prove to anyone. Her place in the Mount Rushmore of Music is on-lock, safe and secure. But if by chance some of us were longing for one new full album of songs that took us back to the stellar vintage performances that emboldened the masters to bestow Lady Soul her crown, A Woman Falling Out of Love (released by exclusive arrangement through Walmart on May 3, 2011) is that sparkling gift.

A. Scott Galloway
May 4, 2011
The Urban Music Scene