Tue. Jul. 16, 2019

Aretha Franklin – Freeway Of Love (Arista)

Classics: Aretha Franklin – Freeway Of Love (Arista)

“We going riding on the freeway of love. Wind’s against our back. We going riding on the freeway of love in my pink Cadillac…”

A Gospel trained singer – she started her career at her father, minister C.L. Franklin‘s church, as a child – Aretha Franklin stands as one of the greatest Soul singers of all times. This with no less that 18 Grammy Awards to her credit to date.

With the 80’s showin’ up, she eventually felt the need to rejuvenate her audience. And for this to happen, she then joined forces with producers Luther Vandross, Marcus Miller and Ray Bardani. With their collaboration givin’ birth to no less than two albums. Beginning with ‘Jump To It’ then ‘Get It Right’, respectively in 1982 and 1983. Themselves spanning gems such as ‘Jump To It’ and ‘(It’s Just) Your Love’ in addition to ‘Get It Right’. Then she would joined the numerous of those who happened to work with Narada Michael Walden. This on the 1985 ‘Who’s Zooming Who?’ album which yielded cuts such as its title track and ‘Freeway Of Love’. Then of the 1986 ‘Aretha’ album, itself featuring ‘Jimmy Lee’ and ‘I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)’ along with George Michael.

Opening the ‘Who’s Zooming Who?’ album, ‘Freeway Of Love’ has that distinctive sound from its producer. In a vein not that far from Jermaine Stewart‘s ‘We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off”. Meanwhile seeing her singing her heart out along with the late Clarence Clemons on saxophone over an electronic synth-led rhythm pattern.
Now, diggin’ deeper into the lyrics, she mentions a “Pink Cadillac” she’s in the get riding on the freeway of love. I gotta say I often wondered if ever it wasn’t that same car which Bruce Springsteen happened to mention on his song of the likes back in 1984. With the same applying four years after to its cover version by the likes of Natalie Cole.

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Overview
“All the roads lead to Rome…” is the first expression coming to mind when thinking of Narada Michael Walden‘s career. Nothing could predict – and probably not the man neither himself – his transformation… From his early musical leanings, geared towards Rock, to his repertoire, one of the richest in the history of Disco/Funk.

Playing in a Rock group (the New McGuire Sisters) in Miami, he discovered the music of Mahavishnu Orchestra before meeting their leader, John McLaughlin. A group which he would join a few months later, replacing famous drummer Billy Cobham who was a major influence to him. He recorded two albums with them, then joined Beck as a producer and musician on his ‘Wired’ album in 1975.

Walden delivered his first LP – ‘Garden Of Love Light’ the year after on Atlantic. He would nevertheless have to wait until 1978 to score his first significant success with ‘I Don’t Want Nobody Else (To Dance With You)’. A success amplified the year after with the release of ‘I Shoulda Loved Ya’ and ‘Tonight I’m Alright’ from his ‘The Dance Of Life’ album. Extra gems followed such as ‘I Want You’ (1980), ‘Summer Lady’ (1982) and ‘Reach Out’. The man resurfacing by the end of the 80’s as Narada with the memorable ‘Divine Emotions’

Last but not least, his name is associated to a myriad of artists, as a writer or producer. From Stacy Lattisaw (‘Jump To The Beat’, ‘Dynamite’, ‘Sixteen’, ‘Block Party’. These in addition to ‘Don’t You Want To Feel It’). To Sister Sledge (‘All American Girls’) and Angela Bofill (‘Something About You’). But also Aretha Franklin (‘Who’s Zooming Who?’, ‘Freeway Of Love’) and Whitney Houston (‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’, ‘So Emotional’). And we can add too Wanda Walden (‘Don’t You Want My Lovin”, ‘I Must Be Dreamin”), George Benson and Clarence Clemons among others. Not to mention Carl Carlton (‘Swing That Sexy Thang’) and Shanice‘s memorable ‘I Love Your Smile’

Aretha Franklin sadly died at her home on Aug. 16, 2018, aged 76, from pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor.

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