Off the Record is a music column featuring a new or vintage vinyl record each week.

 

 

Name: “Lady Soul”

Artist: Aretha Franklin

Release date: January 22, 1968

Favorite track: “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”

 

Seeing so many social media posts about International Women’s Day on March 8 inspired me to feature the legendary singer-songwriter Aretha Franklin’s “Lady Soul.”

Aretha has much power in her vocals and strength in her lyrics, which I think makes her the perfect woman to recognize. Along with many other accolades, Aretha was the first female performer inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Aretha’s music career paved the path for many female musicians to come. “Lady Soul” features some of her biggest hits, such as “Chain of Fools,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone.”

 

MUSIC

“Chain of Fools” was probably the first Aretha song I ever heard. It probably wasn’t long after that I heard “Respect,” but I can still remember my mom singing to this one.

 

Every chain, has got a weak link

I might be weak child, but I’ll give you strength

— “Chain of Fools”

 

This song is the ideal introduction to Aretha because it’s powerful, but still groovy.

“Money Won’t Change You” picks up where “Chain of Fools” leaves off. What stands out most to me in this track is how Aretha’s lyrics and rhythm aren’t dependent upon the music; it’s the other way around. Aretha sings how she wants, and the music is forced to complement her.

The Queen of Soul slows the pace with “People Get Ready,” a song that says “Faith is the key.” This worship song has a beautiful message.

Aretha began singing gospel music as a child, and was inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2012. Her gospel roots are reflected in many of her songs.

“(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” is my favorite track, and I’m not surprised it was a big hit. This soulful ballad ends the A-side on a strong note.

The lyrics are sweet and the pacing is flawless. I dare you not to sing to this song.

The B-side begins with the same level of soul in another hit, “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone.” I adore the chanting of “Why’d you do it?” in response to Aretha’s verses about her love leaving.

“Good to Me As I Am to You” has bluesy music and lyrics, more so than in the other tracks. It’s my second favorite on the record because Aretha shows a more elongated, slinkier sound to her vocals.

“Come Back Baby” is the quickest-paced song on the record, and it really reflects the 1960s rather than foreshadowing music of the early 1970s. It’s, frankly, not my favorite.

Luckily, the song “Groovin” comes along, and it’s not at all what you expect. It’s the most easy-listening song on the record, and it shows a softer side of Aretha’s voice.

“Ain’t No Way,” the album’s closing ballad, continues the vulnerability with frequent vocal outbursts characteristic to Aretha’s music.

 

DESIGN

The bold, red text reading “Aretha: Lady Soul” on this record makes a statement when printed against its blue background. It’s simple, yet fitting.

Underneath the text, is a sweet photo of Aretha smiling in front of the microphone. She looks happy and glamorous.

The back of my reissue features a small history of blues music and Aretha’s influence to the genre. It explains how her experience with gospel music gives her the capability to deeply affect listeners without having an exhibitionist quality to it.

I love the following sentence:

“The key to Miss Franklin’s art is in her ability to combine many different types of music into a powerful, unified expression of her own feelings.”