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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

1961 Aretha Franklin "Aretha with the Ray Bryant Combo"

Aretha is the self-titled pop debut album of the future "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin, for Columbia Records, released in 1961.

Following in the footsteps of close friend Sam Cooke, Aretha was "discovered" by famed Columbia Records producer John H. Hammond.

With the support of her father, Reverend C.L. Franklin, Aretha venured out to New York City's Columbia Record Studios to record her debut album for the label. John Hammond paired Aretha Franklin with the Ray Bryant combo and arranger J. Leslie McFarland, while taking charge of the album's production, which was received to mixed reviews.

The album showcases a young Aretha Franklin (only 19 years old, at the time of these recordings), covering a range of jazz and pop standards. Columbia Records couldn't clearly classify Aretha's sound, as either jazz or pop. Aretha's subsequent albums would show her moving from the realms of both sounds, and audiences as she tries to define her "own soulful sound".

Though rare to find an original 6-eye pressing on vinyl, Columbia Records re-released these sessions and retitled them as "The Great Aretha Franklin: The First 12 Slides", in 1972.

Won't Be Long
Over the rainbow
Love is the only thing
Sweet lover
All night long
Who needs you?
Right now
Are you sure
Maybe I'm a fool
It ain't necessarily so
By myself
Today I sing the blues


  1. I'm torn on a lot of Aretha's Columbia recordings--she seems so...trapped. This is definitely my favorite though, along with the fake "live" album. "Won't Be Long" just rocks! I saw that they're reissuing all of the Columbia albums in a big new fancy box set; it looks divine!

  2. I agree. I'm kinda thinking I might post the Columbia stuff, as I do have all of it plus the rarities. They never really understood what she could do, never marketed her right. I think that the demos and rarities...the studio shows an interesting side of her, though....Hmmm...I may post some of that stuff :)

  3. Thanks so much for posting this album. I'm really enjoying it all. Her voice is so fresh here, so young--so 19. I didn't realize that there was an album before the one that starts with "Drinking Again" (one of the greatest opening sounds on any record ever). For some reason, the link to the New Bethel Baptist stuff keeps coming up as "not valid." Too bad, I'd love to hear this early gospel work. All best, Joel

  4. Not valid? hmmm..."the powers that be" could've deleted it from 4shared. They do that occasionally when I post an actual LP. I do have the file listed as having quite a few downloads, but I'll check.

  5. Barberella, what do you think the original vinyl ablbum is worth?

  6. Gosh, I don't know. It would depend on the condition, I suppose. I imagine not much if it wasn't in mint. I don' think the LP is really uncommon or rare.