I dreamed last night that I found Aretha Franklin’s diary. As I began to read, I uncovered the back story to her new album, “Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics.”
I can’t take it anymore! All these so-called “divas” have had hits with some really extraordinary songs, but I know deep in my soul that I can sing them better. I am the Queen of Soul! I’ve been keeping it in, but I can’t stay silent for one more minute. I must record MY versions of these songs to show the world how it should be done. If they want to believe that I’m paying tribute to these women, that’s fine. Only I will know that what I’m really doing is finally singing these songs the way they were meant to be sung.
It all makes sense to me now! The tracks that make up this new collection exist to proclaim her continued reign as the Queen of Soul.
She begins with “At Last,” a song that was a Billboard Top Ten hit for Glenn Miller in 1942. Still, the 1960 Etta James’ signature version, which was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, has remained the definitive version to this day. It has been recorded by many people over the years, including Cyndi Lauper and Beyoncé (who in 2009 performed it for President Obama, much to Etta’s dismay). Aretha’s rendition begins with the same orchestration as James’ and follows it through, building on Etta’s dreamy interpretation with classic Aretha flair. If any of the tracks on this album are a tribute to the one who popularized the song, Aretha’s version of “At Last” would be it.
The next track brings Aretha into the new millennium, taking on Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” accompanied by a chorus of background singers that add a ’60s girl group vibe to the song. When their vocals segue into Diana Ross’ “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” Aretha takes off on a passionate tour of her vocal range. From the lowest depths to the tallest mountain, Aretha’s still got it.
Aretha’s diva-topping journey continues through a danceable version of Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train to Georgia,” and a new spin on Gloria Gaynor’s anthem, “I Will Survive,” in which Aretha finds new emotional ground, turning the disco classic into an R&B-infused declaration of independence. When the song briefly transitions into Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor,” you know that Aretha gets it. Music is a continuum. Great music didn’t end with the ’60s or ’70s.
Next Aretha sets her sights on the biggest diva of them all, Barbra Streisand. Who else could tackle Barbra Streisand’s “People” and not only get away with it, but totally dominate? Aretha.
Aretha creates a reggae groove as a jumping off point for her soaring vocals on her version of Alicia Keys’ “No One.” A medley of Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” and her own classic, “Respect,” in her words, “pumps up the groove.” When she sings, “I’m the queen behind the king,” who can argue?
Dinah Washington’s “Teach Me Tonight” and The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” get the Aretha treatment before Sinéad O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” closes out the disc. (Does Sinéad even qualify as a diva? I think not.) Aretha elevates Sinéad’s mopey song to a jazzy romp where she breezily scats to make Ella Fitzgerald proud. (Should we read anything into the fact that Aretha didn’t cover Ella on this disc? Just wondering…)
At 72 years old, Aretha Franklin still conveys her confidence, strength and grit with a powerful voice that uniquely qualifies her to be recognized as a true diva. This album is a testament to Aretha’s incomparable talent, her perseverance to stay relevant over more than five decades and her unending mastery of conveying emotion with her voice. Long live the Queen of Soul!
Everyone has different reasons for deciding to come to Tufts. For me, it was the bands. As a bassist and member of two bands in high school, being in a college band was high on my priority list. I fell in love with the student band scene here, from Applejam to the Battle of the Bands, just listening to music put out by Waldo and Bad and Blue made me excited to come here. So, it took me approximately three weeks to find myself a founding member of two bands. One of which, GGGGHOSTS, has been practicing, writing, and most importantly attempting to play in our first show. Through this experience I have come to recognize that there are some key aspects of starting a band that are universal in these situations. I have listed many of them here:
So here we are, practicing for a gig that we can only hope won’t be cancelled at the last minute. Just three lonely freshman trying to make it out here, with dreams of one day having 699 likes on our facebook page (facebook.com/gggghosts). So come see GGGGHOSTS play on November 8th in the Crane Room (though you’ll probably miss us because no one comes for the opening act) and whatever you do, watch out for Broad-Winged Hawks, they’ve been known to attack humans with no warning.
Peace, Love, GGGGHOSTS
Mavis Staples has been at this music thing for a long, long time. Nearly 65 years, actually. When she was still a child, she began singing with her family’s gospel, soul and R&B group, The Staple Singers. Comprised of her father, Roebuck “Pops” Staples, and older siblings Cleotha, Pervis and Yvonne, the band had numerous charted hits, including two #1 songs: “I’ll Take You There”(1972) and “Let’s Do It Again” (1975).
Since 1969, Mavis, a powerful vocalist with a diverse musical palette that spans soul, R&B, jazz, gospel, rock and blues, has released 14 solo albums. She’s collaborated with acts such as The Band, Prince, Ry Cooder and, most recently, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, who produced her last two albums, including last year’s “One True Vine.”
Now 75 years old, she’s still touring in support of her music. I had the opportunity to see her in 2012 when she toured with Bonnie Raitt and made an incredible appearance at the BoA Pavilion in Boston. She remains an expressive vocalist who brings a sense of history to her music while remaining relevant to today’s world.
Lucky for Boston, Mavis Staples will be making a stop at John Hancock Hall on November 8th, and as of this writing, there are still good seats available. You won’t want to miss the opening act, Amy Helm, the daughter of none other than the late Levon Helm from The Band.
On November 19th in Chicago, Mavis Staples will be celebrated by an incredible roster of artists including Bonnie Raitt, Otis Clay, Gregg Allman, Eric Church, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, Taj Mahal, Michael McDonald, Keb’ Mo’, Aaron Neville, Joan Osborne, Widespread Panic, Grace Potter, Jeff Tweedy and Marty Stuart. The show, “I’ll Take You There: Celebrating 75 Years of Mavis Staples,” will be filmed and recorded for multi-platform distribution.
Don’t miss your chance to see Mavis Staples in Boston!
Mavis Staples, Saturday, November 8, 2014 at 8:00 pm
John Hancock Hall, 180 Berkeley Street, Boston, MA 02116
Tickets: www.mavisstaples.com or call (617) 531-1257
The Information perform on Fox 25 Boston in 2005 “A Simple Plan”
The 9th and final night of the Rock and Roll Rumble is on Friday night at TT the Bears. 2 finalists + 1 wildcard will “battle” it out for the coveted Rumble crown. In addition there will be a special performance by The Information, who participated in 2003’s Rumble. This 35th year of the Rock and Roll Rumble has seen many great bands bring their best to perform night after night. Friday night is sure to sell out, so get your tickets early so you’re not listening from the sidewalk.
Read more for the bands playing the Finals:
Await Rescue wins 2014 Rock and Roll Rumble Night 5 (video credit: Sooz TV)
The Preliminary rounds of the Rock ‘N ‘ Roll Rumble have (finally) wrapped, and this week the action moves to the Semi-finals. Six bands who won their nights plus 2 wildcards will battle again for the two slots available in the Finals. Thursday and Friday nights, the Rumble continues at TT the Bear’s in Central Square, Cambridge.
Gondoliers, “Slaves” (Midriff Records) play Night 4
Welcome to Thursday, and night 4 of the Rock and Roll Rumble. After a night off, the Preliminary round continues with 4 more bands from diverse musical backgrounds, representing Boston’s music scene in all its glory. One of the great things about the Rumble is that each night of the competition there’s something for everyone. And of course, “competition” is a term used loosely. It’s a showcase, a celebration. Come down to support your favorite band or experience some of Boston’s top bands of today playing their very best. Well worth the money, time and effort – come on down.
Hey friends of WMFO!
Thank you so much to everyone who participated in the 2014 WMFO Donations Drive and made it such a smashing success. We made our goal of $5000 and we couldn’t have done it without your help!
Barricades won Night 3. (SoozTV)
By now you should have heard about the legendary Rock and Roll Rumble that started up on Sunday night. For those who are new, the Rumble is the World Series of Boston Rock, played over several nights, where 24 bands compete to be named the winner. Three more nights of Preliminaries remain, and then on to the Semi-Finals and Finals. You have plenty of time to show up, so make plans now. Check out all of the bands here. You’re gonna find your new favorite local band today.
Boston Calling, the illustrious year-old Greater Boston music festival, is back for a third round and has at last finalized their line-up with a real treat: The Decemberists are going to be in town for their one and only tour date of 2014.
February’s arrived, and that means things are thawing out here in good old Massachusetts. In an effort to equally thaw out my music collection from having approximately one playlist on repeat all winter, I’ve been on the hunt for new bands and new albums to keep track of.
An old favorite of mine to find bands has been NPR’s First Listen series, which has historically hosted a lot of amazing albums before they were available for public release – including Grouplove’s Spreading Rumours, among others. Spotify and Pandora also have their place in my heart, shiny bite-sized sampler tables that they really are.
But I’m not here to talk about those. I’m here to talk about my latest online music-aggregating obsession: NoiseTrade.