Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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***1/2

ARETHA FRANKLIN
Jewels in the Crown . . . All Star Duets With the Queen

Duets with Mary J., Fantasia and . . . Sinatra? Yup, plus repackaged goodiess

The third Aretha catalog exploitation of the fall is the first from Sony/BMG, which has long since deleted the Eighties and Nineties Aretha albums where half of its sixteen tracks first appeared, and it's also the best. But this isn't to accuse it of coherence or anything. Some of it has been previously recycled \u2014 the Annie Lennox so endlessly we need not name it here, the Keith Richards "Jumpin' Jack Flash" as a bonus cut for a greatest-hits collection initially baited with the merely adequate Bonnie Raitt-Gloria Estefan "Natural Woman." Some of it is lively if expedient (George Michael, Elton John). Some of it is bland (George Benson) or dismal (Frank Sinatra, though only his part). And there are three "newly recordeds," the prize featuring not Mary J. Blige or John Legend but Fantasia, whom the Queen indulges as the naive young thing she is \u2014 and who will never make one of these in her life.

Rolling Stone, Nov. 15, 2007