August 26, 1985 12:00 PM

Aretha Franklin

Franklin has never sounded better than she does on this album. She is also accompanied by the best—guitarists Steve Khan and Carlos Santana, saxophonist Clarence Clemons from the Springsteen band, Randy Jackson, Peter Wolf, formerly of the J. Geils Band, and Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics (on Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves, a duet already released on the new Eurythmics album). Despite such ingredients, this project is less than it might have been. While Narada Michael Walden, who produced all but three of the cuts, has a way of making mediocre singers sound better than they are, he also has a way of making wonderful singers sound less wonderful, putting them up against grinding soul-funk backgrounds with which even someone like Franklin has trouble competing. He also never really lets her build up her momentum, which is like having a Porsche and never using its fifth gear. On Sweet Bitter Love, a torcher by the late Van McCoy, Franklin lets loose a little—but then she produced that track herself. Aretha is the victim of her own talent in a way. You always want more from her. And in this case she doesn’t seem to have been given a real chance to provide it. (Arista)

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