Aretha: With The Ray Bryant Combo
Aretha marks the future Queen of Soul's first professional recording. Collaborating with pianist Ray Bryant, Aretha sings blues and gospel ("Are You Sure") as well as the hoary pop standards ("Over the Rainbow") that have given her early albums such a bad reputation. But unlike future Columbia releases that were drenched in strings, this album has jazzy grit, thanks to Bryant and famed producer John Hammond. The 18-year-old Aretha already had an indelible voice, which she unleashes on "Won't Be Long," and her loopy delivery on "Love Is the Only Thing" hints at her talent for ad libbing.