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Baker's Dozen

Perfect 13: Paul Heaton's Favourite Albums
Adrian Lobb , August 16th, 2017 07:30

Paul Heaton ex of the Housemartins and Beautiful South guides Adrian Lobb through 13 favourite albums - there's a lot of soul in there, but which ones did he nick?

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Aretha Franklin - Amazing Grace
This is another live album, but it is live in a different way. Because it is in a church and you can tell it is, so people aren't clapping at the end of the songs – the choir and the congregation are all part of the performance.

I am a big fan of southern soul. People always assume I am a fan of northern soul and it really grates with me. I am a fan of soul full stop. Aretha was born in Detroit but has a very southern, gospel tinged voice. I like that sort of singer. And I particularly like Aretha because in my opinion she always goes through the gears. She can sing quietly and really bang it out. What was frustrating for a lot of the fans is that we knew she was a gospel singer, and this was seen as her coming home, with James Cleveland's choir.

She had touched on a few gospel songs, some really nice ones with the Ray Bryant Combo – Are You Sure and Won't Be Long. But I'm not aware of her recording with a choir like this before. So to hear her in her natural setting was brilliant. This was also bearing in mind that Aretha Franklin herself had been dragged around musical styles a lot by her bullying husband and been made to perform jazz records. She was also manipulated a little bit by Atlantic back towards making soul records, which was forgotten because they were such great records.

But to hear her finally sing something that was more true to her soul I think was just a joy. My copy was released fairly late, but I think it happened in 1972. The choir arrangements are unbelievable. They are something else. Again with Aretha, I collected everything. I would say I got this in 1980. Again, when the Housemartins were trying to arrange acapella stuff, this was one of the reference points I gave. Things like 'Precious Memories', which is the one James Cleveland sings on, 'Precious Lord Take This Hand' when she goes into 'You've Got a Friend' – I already knew 'Mary Don't You Weep' from the Swan Silvertones and 'Precious Lord' I'd heard Al Green sing, and a few others were very familiar. But the arrangements of the choir behind were unbelievable. We did a version of 'You've Got a Friend' acapalla which was ripped directly off their choir arrangement.


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