The Amazing Grace film has been lost in development hell since it was shot in 1972. A problem with syncing the audio to the picture meant that it was shelved in the Warner Bros. vault for decades. There were attempts to release it in 2011 and 2015, prevented both time by Franklin suing the producer, Alan Elliot, for using her likeness without her permission. Franklin’s family arranged for the film to be completed and released after her death in 2018. I guess her family were less principled about the whole affair.
The film opens with the general pre-show hubbub of Los Angeles’ New Temple Missionary Baptist Church. The Queen of Soul is coming to record a live gospel record, over two nights, with the Southern Californian Community Choir. Director Sydney Pollack can be glimpsed talking to the crew, while the Reverend Dr. James Cleveland reminds everybody that they’re taking part in a religious service, before introducing Aretha up on stage. She floats down the aisle onto the stage and sits down at the piano. The second she starts singing, eyes closed, belting out her magical voice, it’s clear that this is something special.
Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts, in L.A. to finish the recording of Exile On Main St, can be seen hanging out at the back of the hall. It’s not hard to imagine that they’re probably just as happy to see the duo of Bernie Purdie on drums and Chuck Rainey on bass as they are to see Aretha.
I’ve been looking for a copy of the album itself for as long as I’ve been collecting records, and have only ever come across scratched, beat-up copies. Considering it’s the best-selling gospel record of all time, I’m sure I’ll find a nice copy one day, and there’s always the Complete Recordings 4xLP box set if the hunt proves elusive.
This LP is a collection of demos and outtakes, presented as a bonus disc in Aretha’s Atlantic Records 1960s Collection box set from 2018. As always, it’s gold.
Hit: I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) (Demo)
Hidden Gem: The Fool On The Hill (Outtake)