Curtis Mayfield momentarily brought Aretha Franklin out of her slump in 1976 with the Sparkle soundtrack. He wrote and produced the entire album, which gave Aretha a much-needed resurgence. However her slump resumed with 1977’s Sweet Passion. As a result, Aretha went back to Curtis with the hope of reigniting the flame they’d ignited on Sparkle. The resulting LP, 1978’s Almighty Fire failed to do so. The LP is consistent, once again written and produced by Curtis (with the exception of the closing cut, written by Aretha and then-husband Glynn Turman). Yet, to put it in the most cliche of terms, David Ritz said it best, “(it) lacks fire.”
On “Almighty Fire (Women Of The Future)”, there are references to 2001, wahhing synths, strings, brass and copious amounts of funk. It’s not entirely clear what Curtis has Aretha singing about, but it’s one of the very few performances she gives on record that she doesn’t sound completely committed to.
Aretha performed the song on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in 1978. She looks dressed for an appearance in a live-action version of The Jetsons, metallic jumpsuit and matching headpiece. It’s wild.
Almighty Fire has never been reissued in the cd/digital/streaming eras. Stream “Almighty Fire (Women Of The Future)” below:
“Fairy-Tale Princess.” Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin, by David Ritz, Little, Brown & Company, 2014, pp. 304-305.