If Aretha Franklin and Jerry Wexler had never met, and instead of signing with Atlantic Records in 1966 Aretha had retired, on the strength of the sides she cut in the first half of the 1960s alone, she would still be one of my favourite female soul singers. That’s how much I love her Columbia work.
Admittedly, Jerry Wexler was among the greatest record producers that ever lived, but so were the men who supervised Aretha’s Columbia sessions – John Hammond, Robert Mersey, Bob Johnston and Clyde Otis. And granted, it is the magnificent body of work Aretha recorded for Atlantic that earned her the soubriquet the Queen Of Soul, but her dues-paying Columbia tenure produced its fair share of classics and provided her with nine entries on Billboard’s Hot 100 and a further eight that bubbled under.
Aretha recorded in a variety of styles in her early years and some fans of her Atlantic sides don’t care for the jazz and show tunes that litter her Columbia catalogue. They can relax. “Just A Matter Of Time” – compiled for us by pioneering black music maven and author David Nathan – focuses entirely on the soul and R&B tracks she cut for the company, of which he has been a champion since before she contracted with Atlantic.
The majority of the tracks here stem from three albums. ‘Rough Lover’, ‘It’s So Heartbreakin’’, ‘Just For You’ and ‘I Told You So’ are from 1962’s “The Electrifying Aretha Franklin”. All four songs were written by a legendary eccentric said to have stalked naked the corridors of the Brill Building, John Leslie McFarland. Aretha’s tremendous “Runnin’ Out Of Fools” set of 1964 was the original home of ‘The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss)’, ‘One Room Paradise’, ‘Two Sides Of Love’, ‘I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face’, ‘(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am’ and ‘It’s Just A Matter Of Time’. ‘Remember Me’, ‘Deeper’, ‘Only The One You Love’, ‘Her Little Heart Went To Loveland’ and ‘Tighten Up Your Tie, Button Up Your Jacket (Make It For The Door)’ are from her 1966 LP “Take It Like You Give It”.
Other highlights include the very collectable (and much sampled) ‘One Step Ahead’, a wild Bo Diddley-styled update of the Jay McShann-Priscilla Bowman hit ‘Hands Off’ and ‘Follow Your Heart’, a beautiful song written by Van McCoy. Whenever Aretha sang McCoy it was a joy to behold.
It’s not every day the chance arises to hear something new by Aretha. On this CD the opportunity knocks twice. ‘When They Ask About You’ was taped in 1961 when she was just 19 and is the earliest track featured. ‘I Still Can’t Forget’, one of three inclusions penned by the lady herself, dates from 1965. Both are released here for the first time ever. What a rare treat.
by MICK PATRICK