Aretha Franklin, “Montreux 1971” (PoisonAPPLE)
Soul Serenade / Respect / Natural Woman / Say A little Prayer For You / Call Me / Just Because – Share Your Love With Me / Don’t Play That Song (You Lied) / Bridge Over Troubled Water / Dr Feelgood – Spirit In The Dark (53:47)
1971 Montreaux Jazz Festival, Montreal, Switzerland.
Aretha Franklin’s inaugural performance at the Montreal Jazzfest was a big deal both for the diva and the festival itself – On it’s 5th outing, the festival was celebrating the longest run in the short history of it’s grouping – A full 9 days featuring more than 300 musicians, some of the performances were as legendary for their length as their acts – the evening shows on the 18th of June – Midway through the festival – began at their allotted time and, because they were having such a fun time, went on until breakfast. On the 21st of the same month, Oliver Nelson and the Festival Big Band were the last act to perform at the casino before it began to burn down during a Frank Zappa concert in December of the same year. It was the Queen of Soul who was taking the headlining spot this year though and her performance on the first night at the Casino Kursaal was a grand opener.
This PoisonApple CD features the f50-odd minutes of the show, picking up at the instrumental ‘Soul Serenade’ (Which is actually played by King Curtis and the Kingpins) and concluding with the medley ‘Dr. Feelgood – Spirit In The Dark’. It is an excellent fm stereo recording from Dutch radio (One that escaped on to the internet in March 2016 and was touted as a soundboard – S’not) capturing a talent at her best and a delightfully tight band – Racing through even the slower numbers, we begin the set with a brisk ‘Respect’, ‘Natural Woman’ features some very impressive vocal acrobatics as Aretha swings around her voice like a 20lb hammer.
Bacharach and David’s ‘Say A Little Prayer’ ticks along like a funky Swiss clock with new batteries, slowly building a head of steam as the band and it’s singer begin to rap on the door and push their way through. ‘Call Me’ is a torch song of the grandest order and simmers like a strong coffee with a whisky kick.
‘Just Because’ shares that same Saturday night vibe with ‘Share Your Love With Me’ and ‘Don’t Play That Song’, highwired and bold, these are full coloured renditions.
The encore of the set begins with a slowly swirling take on Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ which might hold even more gravity than anything that the duo could have been able to brew on stage. The beautiful triumvirate of band, backing and artiste brings the crescendo to a joyous ending.
Finally, a break for the blues and ‘Dr. Feelgood’ has enough sass to bring down the house most perfectly while ‘Spirit In The Dark’ turns the night around in to an extended, storming, screaming, driven gospel romp with a coda that’s impossible to stand still for.
Released with much better and discrete artwork than the original download (While messing with the track listing on the back!) – this release, saluting one of the true living legends who has recently announced her retirement, is a perfect little piece to add to the Soul / Jazz / Blues selection of your collection and, as the Poisonapple releases are priced very affordably, one that you’ll find most rewarding