Speaking of rock, Keith Richards produced and played guitar (along with Stones compatriot Ronnie Wood) on “Jumping Jack Flash,” the theme for the 1986 Whoopi Goldberg film of the same name. After another solo single, “Jimmy Lee,” Franklin dueted with George Michael in the Grammy-winning “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” Elton John in “Through The Storm,” and her God-daughter Whitney Houston in “It Isn't, It Wasn't, It Ain't Never Gonna Be.” For this collection, Franklin’s “Ever Changing Times” duet with Michael McDonald, written and produced by Burt Bacharach & Carol Bayer Sager, is presented in a previously unreleased mix.
While the '90s weren’t as rich, Aretha returned to the charts throughout the decade with “Willing To Forgive,” “A Deeper Love,” “Hurts Like Hell,” and the final track of this collection, “A Rose Is Still A Rose.” “Rose” is perhaps the most obvious sign that Aretha had realized the smooth, mellow settings that had served her so well before needed to be updated. This track was written, produced and arranged by Lauryn Hill of the Fugees. By Aretha’s standards, “Rose” sounds downright experimental.
Franklin’s output would slow down after 1998 and, by 2003, she was ready to leave Arista behind and form her own label. So it seems appropriate, just over a decade later, that Clive Davis has pulled together the Arista singles and presented them in chronological order for old and new fans alike. It’s also appropriate that the release coincides with Black History Month and Aretha's return to Radio City Music Hall in New York for concerts in February.
It’s fair to say there are Aretha aficionados who love her Atlantic classics who don’t care for the dance mixes of the ‘80s and ‘90s. On the other hand, there are undoubtedly younger listeners who far prefer the music they grew up with when Aretha was riding the freeway of love in a pink Cadillac. Either way, the Queen of Soul deserves respect for her entire body of work, and the Arista catalogue is an essential chapter of post-70s rhythm and blues. When they call this package a “Best of,” they mean it.