04/18/2011 at 01:00 AM EDT
It's a perfect time to fete the Queen of Soul, who, rebounding from recent health problems, celebrated her 69th birthday last month and is marking the 50th anniversary of her pop debut with a truly regal box set: Take a Look: Aretha Franklin Complete on Columbia, a 12-disc collection that traces the years before she earned that legendary respect at Atlantic Records. Eleven albums are featured-from 1961's Aretha (With the Ray Bryant Combo) to 1965's Yeah!!! In Person with Her Quartet-plus a DVD: Aretha '64! Live on the Steve Allen Show. Packed with extras and vintage artwork, it captures her early career in glorious detail.