Aretha Franklin – Soul ’69 Atlantic SD 8212 (1969)
Soul ’69 is a good but not great album that seems a bit disappointing coming amidst of some of Aretha’s best. One standout track is her version of The Miracles‘ “Tracks of My Tears.” Her vocals are more gut-bucket than Smokey Robinson‘s light and airy singing on the original version. The backing band, mostly veteran jazz players, understandably plays with a slightly jazzy inflection, but the band’s arrangement leans on a kitschy tropical/latin style. Throwing those incongruous elements together surprisingly enough works. “I’ll Never Be Free” is also one of Franklin’s better jazz-styled recordings. The rest is all decent but not especially memorable. As an aside, wouldn’t the utilitarian title Soul ’69 have an entirely different meaning if released a few years later on the heels of Marvin Gaye‘s Let’s Get It On (1973)?