Author(s): Aaron Cohen
This is a fascinating and thoroughly researched exploration of the best-selling gospel album of all time. For two days in January 1972, Aretha Franklin sang at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles while tape recorders and film cameras rolled. Everyone there knew the event had the potential to be historic: five years after ascending to soul royalty and commercial success, Franklin was publicly returning to her religious roots. Her influential minister father stood by her on the pulpit. Her mentor, Clara Ward, sat in the pews. Franklin responded to the occasion with the performance of her life and the resulting double album became a multi-million seller - even without any trademark hit singles. But that was just one part of the story. Franklin's warm inimitable voice, virtuoso jazz-soul instrumental group and Rev. James Cleveland's inventive choral arrangements transformed the course of gospel. Through new interviews, musical and theological analyses as well as archival discoveries, this book sets the scene, traces the recording's traditional origins and pop infusions and describes the album's enduring impact. "33 1/3" is a series of short books about a wide variety of albums, by artists ranging from James Brown to the Beastie Boys. Launched in September 2003, the series now contains over 60 titles and is acclaimed and loved by fans, musicians and scholars alike. "It was only a matter of time before a clever publisher realized that there is an audience for whom "Exile on Main Street" or "Electric Ladyland" are as significant and worthy of study as "The Catcher in the Rye" or "Middlemarch"...The series, which now comprises 29 titles with more in the works, is freewheeling and eclectic, ranging from minute rock-geek analysis to idiosyncratic personal celebration." ("The New York Times Book Review", 2006).
"Aaron Cohen's study of Amazing Grace is rich in intelligence, scholarship, and sensitivity. A great musical work has been put in context. Praise Aretha! Praise God!" (David Ritz, co-author of Aretha: From These Roots and Brother Ray: Ray Charles) A growing Alexandria of rock criticism (Los Angeles Times, 2008) Ideal for the rock geek who thinks liner notes just aren't enough (Rolling Stone) One of the coolest publishing imprints on the planet (Bookslut) These are for the insane collectors out there who appreciate fantastic design, well-executed thinking, and things that make your house look cool. Each volume in this series takes a seminal album and breaks it down in startling minutiae. We love these. We are huge nerds. (Vice) A brilliant series...each one a word of real love (NME (UK)) Passionate, obsessive, and smart (Nylon) Religious tracts for the nock 'n' roll faithful (Uncut (UK)) For those of you who really like to know everything there is to know about an album, you'd do well to check out Continuum's "33 1/3" series of books." (Pitchfork)"
Aaron Cohen is associate editor of DownBeat magazine. His writing on gospel music has been featured extensively in the Chicago Tribune, and he lives in Chicago, IL.