Aretha Franklin Like You've Never Heard Her Atlantic Records is releasing vintage Aretha Franklin demos and rare recordings. Plus, new albums from Beirut and Kenna.
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Aretha Franklin Like You've Never Heard Her

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Aretha Franklin Like You've Never Heard Her


Music Reviews

Aretha Franklin Like You've Never Heard Her

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Ah, it's new music Tuesday. We'll check in with Kenna's latest album, and introduce you to an orchestral remix based on a 20th century hot air balloon festival in Paris. Or if that's too twee for you, you might want some ladies who are working in it. There's new releases from Debbie Harry, Angie Stone, J. Lo, if you must. But all those ladies can step aside, because Aretha is large and in charge today with the release of a double disc of songs that have been sitting in the basement of Atlantic Records, like this demo. And…

BURBANK: I could sing it.


BURBANK: Maybe not.

STEWART: You know what? We'll just get to a regular old track in a minute. Melissa Maerz is the senior editor of Rolling Stone magazine. Hi, Melissa.

Ms. MELISSA MAERZ (Senior Editor, Rolling Stone): How's it going?


(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: The what?

Ms. MAERZ: Hello?

STEWART: Hi, Melissa. It's Alison.

Ms. MAERZ: Hi, how's it going?

STEWART: It's going fine. Did you just call Jim the gime(ph)?

Ms. MAERZ: I'm sorry?

BURBANK: Can you sing any Aretha Franklin?

Ms. MAERZ: Oh, no. You don't want me to sing anything. I have terrible voice.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: All right. All right. We have the music now, Ali.

STEWART: All right. The official title is "Rare and Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul." Take a listen.

(Soundbite of song, "Dr. Feelgood")

Ms. ARETHA FRANKLIN (Singer): (Singing) I tell you I don't mind a little company. No, I don't. Because company is all right with me every once in a while.

STEWART: Okay, Melissa. Give me the background on this project.

Ms. MAERZ: Well, this kind of comes from her very early years at Atlantic Records. I think it's the first seven years she was there, and you really got these very, very stripped down versions of things that came on later records. And it's pretty moving to me to just hear her voice. It's her voice - that's the most powerful part of her song. And when you strip away a lot of the other music, you just really get this rattling voice on her.

And you can hear on, I mean, there's this really great duet that she has that's live with her and Ray Charles from 1973, from a CBS broadcast. And she has another outtake out of her cover of Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne," which is one of my personal favorites. Just lots of really stripped down, great demos from her early years at Atlantic.

STEWART: And I understand it was actually curated by Jerry Wexler.

Ms. MAERZ: It was. Yeah. I mean, he was the one who took her under his wing in the early years.

STEWART: He's 93 years old, but…

BURBANK: Ninety-three years young.

Ms. MAERZ: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MAERZ: Still going.

STEWART: And how many tracks do we get?

Ms. MAERZ: There's two discs, so you've got all sorts of stuff here.

STEWART: All right. So that's Aretha Franklin, "Rare and Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul."

All right. I want to talk about Kenna. I'm sort of interested. It's called "Make Sure They See My Face." For people who aren't familiar with Kenna, how would you describe his music?

Ms. MAERZ: Well, I think he's a pretty unique guy. I mean, if you've ever heard any of Pharell William's songs or The Neptunes' songs, he's kind in that vein of this kind of new wave of dance music that not a lot of people are making right now, but, you know, The Neptunes are making really well, and I think Kenna is making really well.

STEWART: And The Neptunes co-produced this record. I want to give people a sense of how different he can be. Let's take a listen to one of those sort of Neptunes-like dance tracks, the first big dance number on the record called "Say Goodbye to Love."

(Soundbite of song, "Say Goodbye to Love")

KENNA (Singer): (Singing) How could you say you're not into it? You'll, see. God is my witness. Just say goodbye to love. I feel like I'm nowhere. Just say goodbye to love. I feel like I'm nowhere.

STEWART: And then there's this little more mellow track called "Be Still." Let's try that out.

(Soundbite of song "Be Still")

KENNA: (Singing) Be still, my love. Don't…

STEWART: Hey, Melissa, is this something he pulls off live? I know he's on tour right now.

Ms. MAERZ: Well, I've never seen him live. But I imagine he'd be great. He's actually got his start, I think, opening for Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode.

STEWART: Oh, you can hear it in that last song a lot.


Ms. MAERZ: Yeah, definitely. You can totally hear that influence. But, you know, he's - it's weird. This album, I think, he created part of the album and then try to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and came back from that and, you know, kind of tweaked things and stuff, that he was re-inspired to create this music. So I'm not really sure how this synth rock ties into that. But apparently, he had a moment of inspiration during the recording of this record.

STEWART: And the video for "Say Goodbye to Love" is pretty cool. So I'm trying to talk to our Web producer into putting it on our site at Check it out.

Okay. This is something I know nothing of. You need to school me about Beirut, "The Flying Club Cup."

Ms. MAERZ: Okay. This is the project of a guy named Zach Condon who lived in Brooklyn. And his first album - I think, in his early years, he traveled a lot in Eastern Europe and really fell in love with gypsy music. So his first album was a lot inspired by, you know, lots of horns and string sections and it's really beautiful kind of classic gypsy music.

This album still has a lot of that that he, I guess, was inspired by some photos he saw from a 1910 hot air balloon race in France. And (unintelligible)…

STEWART: See, I wasn't kidding about that.

Ms. MAERZ: Yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MAERZ: And he went back to France, and then kind of - and brought this gypsy music in with the French influence, too. So you've got this very, you know, turn-of-the-century French influence on this record. But it's also just kind of great orchestral indie rock record.

STEWART: Let's take a quick listen to this from Beirut.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) (unintelligible)

STEWART: Oh, all the Rufus Wainwright fans are swooning right now. And it's Beirut we heard from, as well as Kenna and Aretha Franklin. Our guide today, Melissa Maerz from Rolling Stone, a senior editor. Thanks a lot, Melissa.

Ms. MAERZ: Thank you so much, guys.

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