ARETHA FRANKLIN So Damn Happy (Arista/BMG) Rating: NN
Hearing the opening guitar figure on Aretha Franklin's So Damn Happy disc, which sounds like it's actually being played on a real stringed instrument, has the intended startling effect. Sad as it is, you don't expect to hear anything non-synthetic on an Aretha disc any more. And after the jarring first track, The Only Thing Missin', it's back to the regular program of faux string embellishments and those corny-sounding shimmery wind chimes at every turn. The songwriting is never better than mediocre, and it's odd to hear the Queen of Soul waste her breath trying to scat when all she needs to do is straight-up sing. Another huge disappointment.