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  Listen Up! 6/3/02 Listen Up!

Monday, June 3

Aretha Franklin, “The Queen In Waiting (The Columbia Years 1960-1965),” Columbia Legacy. These six years Aretha spent at Columbia have long been ignored by her fans and critics. Every once in a while, a new compilation comes out to show that she didn’t exactly spring forth from the head of Jerry Wexler when she got to Atlantic in 1967. Her years at Columbia were spent doing more “adult” fare, mostly jazz standards from the good ol’ Great American Songbook. If the rhythms weren’t quite as jumping, and her soul enthusiasm a little bit reined in, that doesn’t mean this stuff wasn’t any good. In fact, if this stuff wasn’t doomed to be compared to songs like “Rock Steady” or “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You,” we’d probably be celebrating the genius of this young singer who seemed to understand about as well as could be imagined the connections between jazz, country, r’n’b, gospel, and other indigenous American music forms. This stuff is analogous to the work Ray Charles was doing at the same time. That road was one well worth taking; it may be less immediate than the harder-edged soul records of both artists, but it has legs.

Eminem, “The Eminem Show,” Interscope Records. Well, the single, “Without Me” is a hoot. But, it’s weakness, which is that once the groove is established, nothing breaks it, either vocally or instrumentally, is multiplied throught the 20 cuts of the album. I’d rather he’d taken all these ideas and mixed them into about one fourth as many songs. Eminem has talent, as a provocateur if nothing else, but there’s not a lot on this album that makes me want to dig into it.

Little Sonny, “Hard Goin’ Up,” Stax Records. This is a reissue of a rarely heard or mentioned 1973 album in the soul/blues vein. Lots of wah-wah pedal chugging in the rhythm guitar, some ace harp work blowing over it, and plenty of action in the bass and drums department. The vocals are solid, if not particularly special.

George Jones, “Anniversary,” Epic Records. Classic George Jones material from the 70s, this showcases why he is one of the greatest country singers in history. His voice is supple, easing the notes across the melody, stretching the heartbreak inherent in the lyrics to the breaking point. If I was prone to crying in my beer at all, this music would pretty much guarantee I’d end up face down on the floor every night. From my perspective, it’s simply beautiful reminders of how eloquently pain can be expressed.

--Steve Pick



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