Picks and Pans Review: What You See Is What You Sweat

updated 08/05/1991 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/05/1991 01:00AM

Aretha Franklin

Queen not only of Soul but of Questionable Musical Decisions, Franklin goes from great to worse on this album.

It includes two more tunes for the spilling-off-the-shelves library of classic Aretha: One is a double-funked version of Sly Stone's "Everyday People" that's kinetic enough to knock down a building. The other is "Mary Goes Round," an Oliver Leiber—Elliot Wolff play on Mary of the lambs—"Everywhere she went the men were sure to go"—with a chunky solo by Dutch saxophonist Candy Dulfer and an arrangement that could make Ed McMahon get up and dance.

The album, though, also contains two schmaltzified Burt Bacharach—Carole Bayer Sager tunes. One, "Ever Changing Times," is a duet with Michael McDonald. Now Franklin is, among other things, a marvelous duet singer, as she proves with Luther Van-dross on this album's satisfying "Doctor's Orders." But Michael McDonald? His singing only makes you think of the people who'd make great partners for Franklin—Joe Cocker, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, John Hiatt.

The denatured tracks dilute the album to an unhappy degree. Franklin does, however, sound in amazingly strong voice, even for her. (Her own ballad, "What Did You Give," makes a pleasant change of pace.) Anyway, divine rights probably include an allowance for monarchs to cut a bad track once or twice in a while. (Arista)

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