Columbia/Legacy Honors the 50th Anniversary of Aretha Franklin's Pop Recording Career With a Deluxe Box Set


Available at both physical and digital retail outlets starting March 22, 2011

NEW YORK, Jan. 18, 2011 -- The 50th anniversary of Aretha Franklin's arrival on the popular music scene is set for a major celebration in 2011. Signed to Columbia Records by the legendary John Hammond in the spring of 1960 (soon after her 18th birthday), Aretha released her debut album, Aretha (With The Ray Bryant Combo), on February 27, 1961.  Her coming of age at Columbia as a young artist in New York is one of the great stories in the annals of popular music, and set the stage for her ascendance as the Queen of Soul at Atlantic Records.

TAKE A LOOK: ARETHA FRANKLIN COMPLETE ON COLUMBIA marks the first time that Aretha's entire Columbia output, including master takes, unissued performances, rare mono mixes and studio conversations, have been preserved in one deluxe 12-disc (11 CDs + DVD) box set.  The package is available for pre-order at in advance of its March 22, 2011, release at all physical and digital retail outlets through Columbia/Legacy, a division of SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT.  The suggested retail price for the box is $169.98.

TAKE A LOOK also includes a comprehensive 64-page booklet with never-before-seen photos by Columbia staff photographerDon Hunstein; recollections by John Hammond, who signed the young gospel singer; a discography of Aretha's Columbia LPs and singles; and an expansive essay "Bold Soul Ingenue" by Daphne A. Brooks, Professor of English and African American Studies at Princeton University.

Columbia/Legacy will also release ARETHA FRANKLIN: THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK on March 22nd.  This single-CD collection of evergreens composed by Billy Strayhorn, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Johnny Mercer andHank Williams, among others, is drawn entirely from the repertoire of TAKE A LOOK.  Liner notes were written by Anthony Heilbut, author of  The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times (Simon & Schuster, 1971).

The wide range of studio and live recordings that Aretha made for Columbia from the summer of 1960 to the fall of 1965 have been a source of controversy and heated critical debate for nearly a half-century. There is unanimous agreement, however, that Aretha's years at Columbia were a necessary step in her artistic evolution.  

Aretha, who turns 69 on March 25th, still commands the oft-cited R word (for R-E-S-P-E-C-T). Her voice remains one of the glories in American music. She has won 18 Grammys; was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987; has performed at two presidential inaugurations; and received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 – the nation's highest honor. She was also recognized as "the greatest singer of the rock era,'" according to a Rolling Stone poll published inNovember 2008.

"The golden anniversary of Aretha's introduction to the pop world from her gospel beginning at Chess Records is a singular moment in America's musical, social and cultural heritage," says Adam Block, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Legacy Recordings. "TAKE A LOOK is a long-overdue tribute to an American icon."

TAKE A LOOK begins with expanded editions of Aretha's seven original Columbia albums:

  • Aretha (with the Ray Bryant Combo) (released February 27, 1961)
  • The Electrifying Aretha Franklin (1962)
  • The Tender, the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Franklin (1962)
  • Laughing On The Outside (1963)
  • Unforgettable – A Tribute To Dinah Washington (1964)
  • Runnin' Out Of Fools (1965)
  • Yeah!!! In Person With Her Quartet (in two sequences: the original 1965 album recorded live in the studio with overdubbed applause, followed by a new previously unreleased version without the overdubbed ambience)


Two CDs reflect Aretha's collaborations with the influential producers Bobby Scott and Clyde Otis -- collaborations that were either shelved or issued as singles, but never on LP:

  • Tiny Sparrow: The Bobby Scott Sessions (1963)
  • Take A Look: The Clyde Otis Sessions (1964)


Two CDs are new compilations:

  • A Bit of Soul (the full album as it was compiled in 1965, but never released)
  • The Queen In Waiting (includes Aretha's last seven Columbia recordings which were produced by Bob Johnston, who was noted for his work during this time with Bob Dylan; the disk also features new recordings of Aretha's songs that Columbia"sweetened" after she left the label)


A bonus DVD, Aretha '64! Live on The Steve Allen Show, features Aretha singing and playing piano on the legendary comedian's television program, syndicated by Westinghouse TV, in the spring of 1964. The performances include "Lover Come Back to Me," "Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody," "Won't Be Long," "Skylark," and "Evil Gal Blues."

The lavish 64-page booklet was designed by Michael Boland for The Boland Design Company. It contains:

  • A 3,700-word essay by Daphne A. Brooks, distinguished professor of English and African American Studies at Princeton University; author of Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850-1910 (Duke UniversityPress, 2006), Jeff Buckley's Grace (Continuum 33 1/3 series, 2005) and the forthcoming Subterranean Blues: Black Women and Sound Subcultures (Harvard University Press)
  • An excerpt from John Hammond's 1977 autobiography, On Record, in which he reflects on the joy of discovering a singular talent, and the heartbreak of losing her to Atlantic Records
  • Newly published photographs by Vernon L. Smith and the Columbia staff photographers Don Hunstein, Hank Parker andSandy Speiser
  • Complete discography of albums and singles


In every case, the CD jackets replicate the original LP jackets, including back cover liner notes.  These include liner notes written by many of the most prominent music journalists of the day, including Frank Driggs (Aretha With the Ray Bryant Combo);Pete Welding (The Electrifying Aretha Franklin); Billy James (The Tender, The Moving, The Swinging Aretha Franklin); Leonard Feather (Unforgettable); and Dan Morgenstern (Yeah!!! In Person With Her Quartet).

After leaving Columbia in 1966, Aretha proceeded to earn 30 consecutive Top 10 hit singles over the next seven years, 15 of which went to #1 R&B.  At the end of the '60s and into the '70s, she was a powerful figure in the Civil Rights and anti-war movements, Black power, and the rise of feminism.

Author David Ritz was Aretha's collaborator on her candid autobiography, From These Roots (Villard Books, 2000).  It remains the definitive account of her life and charts the course of modern R&B, alongside Ritz's biographies of Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Etta James, Smokey Robinson, Jerry Wexler and others.

Of Aretha's Columbia years, Ritz writes: "We see a teenager turn into a woman, and a woman blossom into an artist of astounding emotional depth."

"Hearing Aretha on Columbia is like seeing a sunrise," he continues. "The colors dazzle; the world expands; our hearts are excited by possibility, hope, a glimpse of glory. An Aretha love song, even when the story is sad, soars with a spirit that defies defeat. Whether forlorn ballads or broken-hearted blues, Aretha draws on the highest power of inspiration. The material may be secular, but the source remains spiritual. Her message and inspiration come from the same place: the mysterious, inexhaustible nature of love."

TAKE A LOOK was compiled and produced by Grammy Award-nominated producer Leo Sacks, who has supervised more than 300 compilations, remixes and new recordings for Legacy which have been vital to preserving the works of such American masters as Earth, Wind & Fire, Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, The Isley Brothers, Luther Vandross and the producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff.

The package was mastered by Mark Wilder, who has won three Grammy Awards for his work preserving the legacies of Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Miles Davis.

"These stunning performances capture a gritty soul about to take flight," Sacks says.

Aficionados, collectors and Aretha's devotees will rejoice at the care and devotion that Legacy has accorded her rich catalog in the time-honored tradition of comparable deluxe commemorative box sets by Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Tony Bennett, Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley, among others. Historical accuracy, attention to detail and painstaking studio archival restoration has endeared Legacy to music lovers everywhere.


SOURCE Legacy Recordings




January 18, 2011 12:47pm ET by Pressparty   Comments (0)

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