The Bottom Line
- Many of these duets are from albums that are long out of print, so this isn't just for completists.
- Aretha can hold her head up in any musical situation, even when mismatched.
- Many of these duets were bad ideas to start with, frankly.
- The production, particularly on the Eighties cuts, has not aged well.
- Fantasia? Really?
- Release date: November 11, 2007
- Arista 78668
- Studio (1983-2007)
- Duets / Various artists
- Single disc
Guide Review - Aretha Franklin: Jewels In The Crown: Duets With The Queen Of Soul
All the big-duet sins are present and accounted for in these sixteen tracks, many of which have been unavailable for years due to the deletion of Franklin's back catalog: here's the Queen up against lesser vocal talents (Whitney Houston, a new John Legend duet), here she is with equal legends far past their prime (an excruciating "What Now My Love" with Sinatra), here's a topheavy affair with Gloria Estefan and Bonnie Raitt, here's a misguided, badly strained attempt to make her "rock" ("Jumpin' Jack Flash" with Keith Richards, a single so dull it killed her first comeback). Make it to the second half, though, and there's some good stuff here, duets with singers who actually have soul and are adept in the lost duet art of singing to, not around, their partner: George Benson, Michael McDonald), not to mention a fine new Mary J. Blige track. The r-word still looms over this collection, though, not just because some of these hail from a time when Bryan Adams could be thought of as a producer -- Fantasia gets badly served on "Put You Up On Game," just as Whitney did two decades ago. And both were supposed to be doing Aretha a favor. Right.