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Delayed for decades, Aretha Franklin's 'Amazing Grace' hitting screens. This documentary capturing the Queen of Soul's 1972 gospel sessions (at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles ), is finally headed to theaters after decades of legal and technical snags. What it reveals is the glory of Aretha seeing the light.

“Amazing Grace” is a filmed record of the two nights, in January 1972, during which Franklin recorded the gospel performances that became the celebrated live double album “Amazing Grace.” It remains not only the best-selling gospel record of all time, but the best-selling album of Franklin’s 50-year career. She was then at the height of her stardom, with 20 albums and 11 number-one singles (all the iconic hits: “Respect,” “Chain of Fools,” “Think,” etc.) under her belt, and she wanted to do a record that honored the formative gospel roots of her youth.
"Watching “Amazing Grace,” we see how profoundly true that is. Not just because Franklin sings praise to Jesus with the full flower of her virtuosity, but because there’s such a remarkable continuity between the religious fervor she expresses here and the “secular” fervor of her pop and R&B songs. Most of the numbers in “Amazing Grace” are hymns or traditionals, like the lilting “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” or the meditative “Precious Memories,” and a few are reconfigured versions of great pop numbers of the spirit, like Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” or Marvin Gaye’s “Wholy Holy.” But the sound is never pious or autumnal. It’s majestic and soaring and athrob with rhythm.
If the blues is the formal and spiritual foundation of rock ‘n’ roll, it’s the joy of gospel that gave rock its roll. That’s what you hear in “Amazing Grace.” The movie reveals how the fundamental distinction between “rock ‘n’ roll” and “rhythm and blues” was not only racist at its core, but a way for the consumer culture to slice the God out of music that was invented as a way to talk to God. In “Amazing Grace,” Aretha Franklin transcends the blues by saying a little prayer — or singing one — for all of us." Owen Gleiberman - variety.com

Last modified on Friday, 16 November 2018 09:17

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