In 1971, after eleven number one hits in a row, Aretha Franklin decided to make a gospel album. Amazing Grace became her best-selling album and the best selling gospel album of all time. The 1972 recordings were accompanied by a Warner Bros. film team directed by Sydney Pollack. But this film was never shown, officially for technical reasons: Sound and picture were simply not synchronized. But 46 years later it can be seen - and shows so much more than just the recordings of a great album.
The album was recorded on two evenings at the Missonary Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles - in front of a live audience and with gospel legend Reverend James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir. The images perfectly reflect what Aretha Franklin intended with her album: she didn't want to record it in the studio, but in front of a live audience, so that the reactions would be there, combining concert, recording session and worship. The interjections can also be heard in the film, a song needs several attempts, but above all there are the physical reactions of the audience. Everyone sweats under the hot lights, people dance and pray.
In between is Aretha Franklin. Calm, introverted, very concentrated she sits at the piano or stands behind a desk. She only speaks a few sentences at the end, otherwise she sings as only she can.
It is unquestionably an experience to see Aretha Franklin on the screen. No matter how many times you've heard this album or whether you've even heard it before, the pictures of these two evenings are unforgettable: Aretha at the piano, singing a song on a chair, choir director Alexander Hamilton conducting, and of course the singers of the Southern California Community Choir in their shimmering waistcoats, who sometimes barely keep it on their chairs. Amazing Grace is truly a concert film, a truly spiritual experience - an event that could have gone on for much longer.