Aretha's collaboration with Jerry Wexler came about because, despite an obvious talent, her Record label, Columbia, had failed to ignite the fire within her, having pigeon -holed as a Jazz singer. Wexler gave her an edge, and that produced the groundbreaking "Never Loved a Man" album.
Ironic, then , that 5 albums later, Wexler took her back to Jazz, but this time with the R&B edge that allowed Aretha room to swoop and soar around the melody in her inimitable style. Soul 69 is, then, something of a misnomer, but don't let that put you off.
Starting with a big band rendition of Ramblin', it is clear that this will be an Aretha album with a difference. "River's Invitation" and "Crazy..." are notable for Kenny Burrell's guitar, and "Tracks of my Tears" and "Gentle on my Mind" both swing along in a way that neither Smokey nor Glenn Cambell could have envisaged.
For me, the stand out tracks are "Today I Sing the Blues" and "I'll Never Be Free", both aching with loss, made more poignant because Aretha was enduring troubled times, her marriage to Ted White close to breakdown.
Soul 69 is not an archetypal Aretha album, with it's big band styling, but get past that and you can hear the Queen of Soul in her usual vocal form. This is one to be savoured over time and you will come to appreciate it's place in the hearts of Aretha devotees.