Aretha Franklin – Amazing Grace Palace Nova East End 27th August
After years recording pop hits like “Chain of Fools”, “Ain’t No Way”, “Think” and “I Say a Little Prayer” in 1972 Aretha Franklin decided to go back to her roots; Gospel. Franklin recorded live what is considered one of her greatest albums called Amazing Grace. Not only a recorded album, director Sydney Pollack was involved in filming the live recording with the expectation of a film release. Although it was filmed the project was discarded due to the technical difficulties of syncing the audio footage with the live vocals.
Producer Alan Elliott took on the project despite twice the disapproval of Franklin herself while she was alive and it has finally been released. The film showcases the sheer vocal brilliance of Aretha Franklin together with the Southern California Community Choir, Reverend James Cleveland and Franklin’s father Reverend C. L. Franklin it takes us deep into a Baptist Church with all its glory. If you look closely enough there’s appearances by Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts and even Sydney Pollack himself.
Franklins renditions of gospel songs literally take you on a holy journey filled with spiritual highs. Filmed over two nights this feature is condensed to 87 minutes highlighting the best bits. Songs like Wholy Holy, Precious Memories featuring Rev. James Cleveland, What a Friend we Have in Jesus, Mary Don’t You Weep and the titled song Amazing Grace.
While the filming of this documentary is at time difficult to watch and you start to understand why it was abandoned it’s the revelation of why you need to see it that helps to forgive that minor fault and you understand the whole point of what it gives us; Aretha Franklin. As her father introduced her “The intangible something that’s hard to describe” and as Reverend Cleveland proclaimed “Aretha can sing anything even Three Blind Mice” it’s a blessing that we have been given the opportunity to see it.
Aretha Franklin and music fans will love this raw and intimate documentary. There’s no bells and whistles or voice overs. Its just pure Aretha in her element singing the genre she was born and raised in; Gospel.