From her first Atlantic Records album in 1967 all the way to 1972, Aretha Franklin worked exclusively with the powerhouse team of Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin, and Tom Dowd helming production and engineering. The success of that era remains unparalleled. But in 1973, it was time to branch out. Aretha went to none other than Quincy Jones. The resulting work, 1973’s Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky), doesn’t rank among her greatest albums of all time, but there’s multiple great cuts throughout their album-long collaboration.
Part of the reason the album didn’t hit as hard as it could have can be attributed to the direction (or loss of one). The album was originally conceptualized to be a jazz record. Aretha and Quincy set out to create a jazz record from top to bottom, but that sentiment faded and it instead transformed into an R&B record with jazz moments. “Moody’s Mood” is one of those moments that showcases that could have been.
While the original version of “Moody’s Mood for Love” (composed in 1952, and melodically based on a jazz solo from James Moody in 1949), has a smooth, easy pace, Aretha kicks the tempo into overdrive. The originally mellow paced opening lines “There I go, there I go, there I go” suddenly speed by like a rocketship in Aretha’s version. It’s one of the most high-speed recordings of the song to date.
Layered vocals heighten Aretha’s head voice delivery of the song. Maybe it’s even a little too fast, but there’s a satisfaction is hearing Aretha zip through “Moody’s Mood” at such an accelerated pace, going high, going low, and scatting her way on through. Though there isn’t any evidence that Aretha ever performed the Hey Now Hey arrangement, she has performed “Moody’s Mood” several times over the years, including once with James Moody himself.
As the story goes, while doing an interview before a San Diego, California show, Aretha learned that James Moody lived in the area. She was absolutely ecstatic that he was in the area. The reporter connected the two, and Aretha invited Moody to join her at the show. The two met for the first time that evening, and performed “Moody’s Mood” together. There’s no footage of the two performing together, but there are performances from other occasions.
Listen to Aretha zip through “Moody’s Mood”: