Recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that the most overused word in the English language is the word “classic.” Nowadays, something can’t just be good, it must be a classic. It doesn’t matter if someone is talking about a book, cuisine, technology, a architecture or art, the word classic is used to describe anything that rises above average. Whether it’s a book, building,  painting, phone or automobile, chances are, critics will refer to it as a classic. Nowhere is the word classic more overused than in music. Anyone who reads the music press will see the word classic both overused and misused. In truth, very few of the hundreds of thousands of albums ever recorded, deserve to be called classics. However, one album that certainly deserves that accolade, is Aretha Franklin’s breakthrough album I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You which was rereleased by WEA Japan on 26th March 2013.

By the time Aretha Franklin recorded I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You, she was not only a hugely experienced singer and recording artist, having released ten previous albums. Three of those albums Running Out of Fools released in 1964, 1965s Yeah! and Soul Sister, released in 1966, had all reached the top ten in the US R&B Charts. That however, was the extent of her commercial success. Her previous album 1966s Take It Like You Give It had failed to chart. All this would change considerably, in 1967, when she took a trip to Muscle Shoals to record her next album.

Aretha Franklin’s destination was the legendary Fame Recording Studios, where she recorded with the Muscle Shoals rhythm section, who’d graced numerous Southern Soul hits. Once there, she recorded a track that would change her career I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You, a track where Aretha’s gospel influence shines through. On returning to New York, she cut the B-side of what would be her next single, I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You. The B-side Do Right Woman, Do Right Man. On the single’s release, I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You reached number nine in the US Billboard 100 and number one in the US R&B Charts, resulting in the first gold disc of Aretha’s career.

Following this success, an album was released, I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You, which had been recorded at the Fame Recording Studios n Muscle Shoals and Atlantic Recording Studios in New York, during January and February of 1967. With the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section Aretha recorded a total of eleven tracks, including a cover of Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come and Otis Redding’s Respect. Aretha’s cover of Respect reached number one in both the US Billboard 100 and the US R&B Charts, earning Aretha another gold disc. On its release in March 1967, I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You reached number two on the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts. This lead to the album being certified platinum, having sold over one million copies.

Although most critics loved the album, Rolling Stone magazine had a number of criticisms. They criticized the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section’s “lack of versatility,” with the drums and guitar incurring the wrath of Fame’s finest musicians. Another person coming in for criticism was producer Jerry Wexler. His “production lacked polish,” was their opinion. Whether any of this either reached or bothered the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, Jerry Wexler or even Aretha Franklin, is unknown. After all, everyone concerned had just played their part in a platinum selling album. However, after a volte-face in 2002, the same magazine made the album number one in their Women In Rock: 50 Essential Albums list. A year later, after their volte-face they included I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You at number eighty-three in their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Since its release, back in 1967, I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You is still perceived as one of the greatest albums Aretha Franklin ever released, and it’s that album I’ll now tell you about.

I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You opens with a cover version of the Otis Redding track Respect, albeit with a change in the lyrics. Whereas, Otis’ version was from the perspective of a desperate man, willing to do whatever it takes to please his woman, Aretha sings the song from the perspective of a confident, independent woman. She knows what he wants, never does him wrong and demands his respect. Making her point, she spells out R-E-S-P-E-C-T, while behind her, backing singers unite to sing “sock it to me.” The song became an anthem to the feminist movement, and earned Aretha two Grammy Awards in 1968. When the songs opens, it’s a combination of blazing horns, chiming, searing guitars and driving rhythm section that accompany Aretha’s sassy, confident vocal. Behind her, The Sweet Inspirations, Aretha’s backing vocalists unite soulfully, their voices a contrast to Aretha’s power and confidence. Together with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, they help drive the track quickly, along. The result is not only a timeless, track, but a feminist anthem.

Drown In My Own Tears was a track previously covered by Dinah Washington and Ray Charles. Here, Aretha reinterprets the track written by Henry Glover. It’s just a piano that opens the track, giving way to a hugely powerful and emotive vocal from Aretha. Drums join the piano, played gently, as they should be on this track, while Aretha injects both beauty and emotion into the lyrics. Later, rasping horns enter, and like The Sweet Inspiration, punctuating the rest of the track. Jerry Wexler’s arrangement is perfect, allowing Aretha’s vocal to take centre-stage, where it soars emotively and beautifully, as she offers up a beautiful interpretation of the song.

The track that really launched Aretha’s career after eleven years and ten albums of trying was I Never Loved A Man (the Way I Loved You). Written by Ronny Shannon, it gave Aretha her first US R&B number one single. It’s that familiar combination of piano, organ and drums that open the track, before Aretha’s frustrated, angry vocal enters. She’s despairing at being in love with a no-good, good cheating guy, who treats her badly, but can’t leave him because of how he makes her feel. Rasping horns punctuate the track, while, the piano is key to the track. Occasionally The Sweet Inspirations accompany Aretha, adding to the already emotive and dramatic sound. Soon, horns accompany Aretha’s energetic, desperate soaring vocal as she sings how she’s never loved a man like him. In just under three minutes, Aretha covers a gambit of emotions from angry and frustrated, to lovestruck and desperate and everything in between. It’s a very real story the mistreating, cheating guy and the woman who would and should leave him, but can’t because she loves the way he makes her feel. However, no-one can tell the story like Aretha. Her version of this seminal, career changing track is peerless.

Aretha changes things on Soul Serenade, which features a truly tender vocal. Just Aretha and the piano combine, before blazing horns and the rhythm section enter. The horns enter into call and response with Aretha and are at the heart of the sound. This proves  really effective.

Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream features a much more powerful vocal from Aretha, who co-wrote this track with her husband Ted White. Just the rhythm section and backing vocalists accompany Aretha. Whether this song is autobiographical one wonders, given the lyric “if I lose this dream, it’s goodbye love and happiness?” Although the lyrics are good enough, they and the song don’t quite match the quality of its predecessors. Sinilarly, Jerry Wexler’s production gives the track a dated sound.

Baby, Baby, Baby was written by Aretha and her sister Carolyn.  A combination of piano and Hammond organ that accompany Aretha’s hugely emotive and sad vocal. Hurt by the man she loves, the rhythm section  and The Sweet Inspirations gently accompany Aretha on this slow, sad song. Emotive and impassioned, her love for her man is almost tangible. This becomes sadness and desperation, when rasping, horns and soaring harmonies join. Truly, it’s a powerful track, full of emotion, thanks to Aretha’s reading of some heartbreaking lyrics.

Another track Aretha and Ted White penned was Dr Feelgood (Love Is A Serious Business). Straight away, there’s a real Southern Soul feel  as a Hammond organ and piano combine, before the rhythm section and Aretha enter. They’re accompanied by bursts of horns and guitar, while Aretha gives a thoughtful, slightly angry vocal. She’s angry as she sings about neither wanting anyone, nor anything, to come between her and her man. Aretha sings the lyrics with frustration, anger and passion, combining soul and jazz seamlessly.

Aretha covers two Sam Cooke tracks on I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You. The first of these is Good Times, where Aretha makes the song swing with the help of the Muscle Shoals rhythm section. Along with blazing horns, Aretha gives a sassy, swinging rendition of Sam Cooke’s lyrics. Her delivery is jazzy, but still soulful as the makes Sam Cooke’s lyrics swing,

Dan Penn and Chips Moman cowrote Do Right Woman, Do Right Man. Although this track has been covered many singers, Aretha’s version is the definitive version. Key to this is the gospel influence, which continues to the bridge. Just the piano, Hammond organ played by Aretha and  rhythm section accompany Aretha’s gospel tinged vocal. Behind her, The Sweet Inspiration contribute peerless harmonies. Aretha’s vocal is laden with emotion, as she urges men to treat women as their equals, as well as treating them well, not cheating on them or abusing them, and certainly, never to take them from granted. The other theme of the lyrics is temptation, and how women can be tempted towards infidelity, but resisting temptation, can have its rewards. Aretha’s vocal is laden with emotion and sincerity,  as she demonstrates her gospel roots, while delivering the definitive version of a classic track.

Save Me was written by Aretha and Carolyn Franklin with Curtis Ousley. Searing guitars and the rhythm section accompany Aretha’s pleas, as she almost screams for someone to save her, to love her and take away her hurt. Later, short, sharp bursts of horns punctuate the arrangement, while the guitars and rhythm section drive the track along. As the track progresses, Aretha’s pleas become even more desperate, full of emotion, sadness and passion. This results in a track that’s drenched in drama, emotion and desperation.

Closing I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You is Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come. Of all the songs Sam Cooke wrote, this is one of the most powerful and became synonymous with the civil rights movement. Although the song was only a minor hit for Sam Cooke in 1963, the song’s impact was huge and important. When it’s sung by either Sam Cooke or Aretha Franklin, it has the capacity to bring a multitude of emotions to the surface. It makes you sad, frustrated and angry at the injustice of the early sixties when the song was released by Sam Cooke, but happy and joyous that by 1967, slowly change was indeed coming. Just a piano accompanies Aretha’s tender, determined and thoughtful vocal. As a Hammond Organ enters, her voice soars. Aretha brings life and meaning to Sam Cooke’s lyrics, her voice soaring from tender to a powerful, emotive and impassioned style. By the end of the this outstanding, hugely emotional paean of hope, you can’t failed to be moved and be uplifted by this beautiful song, which is a fitting and poignant way to end I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You.N

Not only did I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You launch Aretha Franklin’s career at Atlantic Records, but it was the album that saw her make a commercial breakthrough. Critically acclaimed and certified gold, I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You, which was rereleased by WEA Japan on 26th March 2013, is one of Aretha’s greatest albums. Quite simply, I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You is a stunning album, with some hugely powerful music on it. Among the highlights of I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You are Respect, I Never Loved A Man (the Way I Loved You), Do Right Woman, Do Right Man and A Change Is Gonna Come. These are four tracks not only feature Aretha at her best, but demonstrate her ability to bring life and meaning to lyrics. There’s e confident, independent and sassy Aretha on Respect. Compare this to the  Aretha on Never Loved A Man (the Way I Loved You), where she’s been mistreated, cheated on, but still can’t stand to leave. The difference is huge, but the portrayal are very real. Then there’s the message of equality on Do Right Man and the positivity and emotion of A Change Is Gonna Come. This allows you to see how Aretha Franklin could bring a song to life, make to you believe in the lyrics and emotions behind it. Although I’ve just mentioned these four songs, there are many other great tracks on the album. Aretha’s interpretation of Henry Glover’s Drown In My Own Tears is both emotive and very beautiful. Overall, I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You is one of the few that deserves to be rightly called a classic album. Nowadays, this accolade is given to too many unworthy albums. However, I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You richly deserves the accolade.

Having released ten albums before signing to Atlantic Records, I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You was a career defining album. It saw Aretha on her way to being crowned Queen Of Soul. However, this was just the start of a string of critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums. From 1967s Aretha Arrives, Lady Soul, Aretha Now, through 1969s Soul ’69 and 1972s Young Gifted and Black Aretha Franklin was the undisputed Queen Of Soul. Nobody else came close. These were the best albums of Aretha’s long and illustrious career. However, the album that started Aretha Franklin’s career was I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You, which transformed her career and deserves to be called a classic. Standout Tracks: Respect, I Never Loved A Man (the Way I Loved You), Do Right Woman, Do Right Man and A Change Is Gonna Come. 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: