Aretha Franklin: The Long And Winding Road
There are some artists whose songs are often improved by coverage, or at least stretched beyond their original bounds – Dylan or John Prine, for example, write damn good songs, and their performance is something special indeed, but their broken voice and delivery just aren't versatile enough to preempt the plethora of nuanced interpretations which bring new and gorgeous diversity to their respective songbooks, often evoking a fuller range of emotions which were harder to hear in the growled original. There's nothing wrong with that. It's just how it is.
The Beatles, on the other hand, are hard to out-Beatle. From the manic crash-and-cry of Helter Skelter to the delicacy of Blackbird or Julia to the pomp and circumstance of Penny Lane, the boys had a knack for finding just the right tone for a myriad of narratives. As such, Beatles coverage is a wonderful thing – I've posted some good ones myself in the last week or two, and enjoyed thoroughly the gems which my fellow Starmakers have posted before me this week – but in most cases, it's hard to argue that the version is truly an improvement on the original.
Still, once in a while a singer manages to make a Beatles song even better, and it's hard to beat the aching, longing soul that Aretha pours into what I've always considered one of the weaker, dare-I-say sappier tracks from the Fab Four canon. Atlantic Records producer and “godfather of soul” Jerry Wexler provides a perfectly balanced swirl of early seventies keyboard sound and punctuated rhythm that functions as a startlingly effective tether for Aretha's raw emotional power, too. The result: perfection. Lead me to your door, indeed.
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