Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Aretha Franklin: Spirit in the Dark [Atlantic, 1970]
At first this may sound unnaturally even--jazzy in its pleasantness, pleasant in its jazziness--but that's just because no Aretha album has ever generated such a consistent groove. Four different bands, notably the Dixie Flyers and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, keep things rocking at a medium-fast tempo, and what's lost in soul intensity is more than made up for in a kind of dusky barroom aura--if you can imagine walking into some funky cocktail lounge and finding the greatest singer in the world at the piano. Infinitely playable. Powerful song for song. Classic in its casualness. A