Aretha Franklin


“Young, Gifted and Black” 

 [Atlantic, 1972]

This plays straight to the nouveau-bourgeois black album audience, with all the self-consciousness and instrumentation that implies, but though it’s genteel it’s never bloodless; Aretha’s free-flight improvisations are vehicles of a romanticism extreme and even unhinged enough to soar from the Afro-American experience right into the blithe fantasies of pop. She makes “Long and Winding Road” rock and turns the programmatic title anthem into a hymn. She proves herself a fond observer of everyday life on her own “First Snow in Kokomo.” And on “Day Dreaming” she provides a metaphor her American-dreaming sisters and brothers can relate to: The song is wishful thinking, but the man it’s about may just be real anyway, and that’s the way America is sometimes. 


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