This is pretty good. Some digital boffins have got Franklin’s original vocals from her classic Atlantic masters, hired the Royal Philharmonic, booked Abbey Road studios — which always sounds good in a Press release — and then mixed the new music and old vocals, with added backing vocals from Patti Austin.
What you get is the Queen of Soul at full power, carefully thought-out and arranged orchestral scores (with rock drums and a solid horn section) and a fresh sound to old hits, without losing the power of the originals. This is not Franklin covering her old tunes backed by a Stars On 45-style disco string section.
It kicks off strongly, a vaguely Shaft-like string arrangement building up to and leading into Think. You get a breather with Don’t Play That Song (You Lied) but there’s another good update, I Say a Little Prayer, which opens with romantic strings but is otherwise a big, soulful take on the song.
The two closers are a bluesy, meaty revamp of Son Of A Preacher Man and a strong Respect. Overall: not quite the originals but a fresh take on classic songs.