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ARETHA AND CLIVE'S CLASSICS MOVE
We Visit a Music-Biz Icon to Hear the Latest From the Queen of Soul

by Simon Glickman

When Clive Davis summons you so he can play you some new music, you go. So HITS Editor in Chief Lenny Beer and I hied ourselves to the Peninsula this week, where the music-biz legend was installed in his customary suite, and sampled a panoply of tracks from the new RCA set Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics, which he oversaw.

The set finds Aretha, who recently topped a Rolling Stone poll of “The 100 Greatest Singers,” putting her stamp on a diverse menu of huge hits made famous by female superstars.

Diva Classics, streeting on 10/21 and now in pre-order, joins chart-topping sets by Streisand and Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga (which also revisit well-loved songs) in defining Q4 as a festive season for upper-demo consumers.

Clive was in fine, avuncular form, doling out anecdotes—and stats—with aplomb between tracks. And Aretha, on this selection of premium material, is in superb voice.

Even if you haven’t heard the Queen of Soul’s rendition of “Rolling in the Deep” (helpfully labeled “The Aretha Version” on the album), you’ve probably guessed that the Adele megahit is exactly in her wheelhouse. What struck me, though, was the ferocity of her performance; her wailing, churchy delivery takes the song to wild new places.

She’s in a more serene mood for “At Last,” updating Etta James’ romantic benchmark with both grace and grit, and wrings fresh nuance from the Barbra Streisand touchstone “People.”

Her take on the Gladys Knight and the Pips perennial “Midnight Train to Georgia” finds new emotional terrain, and she proves she can still make a club quake with her exuberant refiguring of the Gloria Gaynor classic “I Will Survive” (blended with “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child) and the Chaka-Whitney anthem “I’m Every Woman” (which segues into Aretha’s own signature tune, “Respect”).

She even assays the Prince-penned, Sinead-patented “Nothing Compares 2 U” in a surprisingly jaunty, jazzy arrangement.

There’s plenty more besides, but considering how much time we’d already spent on the furniture, Clive wisely decided to cut the visit short so he could have the suite fumigated. He was very polite about it, though.

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