The definitive Jay & the Americans collection, Come a Little Bit Closer: The Best of Jay & the Americans, collects the highlights of the band's career with each of its lead singers, Jay Traynor and Jay Black. Traynor was the voice behind the group's first big hit, 1962's "She Cried," as well as singles like "Dawning," the melody of which cleverly mimics Edvard Grieg's "Morning Mood" and a laid-back version of "Tonight" from West Side Story. It's too bad that the Americans didn't wait to record that last song until Black had entered their fold. His impressive range and theatrical delivery made songs like "Only in America" sound like they were from some forgotten musical and made the band's version of "Crying" closely rival Roy Orbison's original. Along with the title track, "Come a Little Bit Closer" also features the hits "Cara Mia" – one of the best showcases for Black's vocal prowess – and "This Magic Moment," as well as sound-alike follow-ups like "Let's Lock the Door (And Throw Away the Key)," "Some Enchanted Evening," and "Sunday and Me".
Come A Little Closer is an album of standards, which say with absolute precision feelings, emotions, silences Laika, a young musician we discovered with Misery album as a tribute to Billie Holiday, and Nebula. In this third album, she has collected titles, each of which speak to the ear. Thus, When Love Was You and Me Abbey Lincoln, and It's Easy To Remember by Bing Crosby in 1935. As a kind of bonus, Laika offers a melody Roy Hargrove's one piece of album: Divine.
Etta James was fighting serious substance-abuse problems when this album was recorded, commuting to the sessions from a rehab center. It was a triumph simply to complete the record at all. But although James' life may have been in rough shape outside of the studio, she delivered a fairly strong set that fused forceful '70s soul arrangements with some rock (Randy Newman and John Kay both contribute compositions), jazz, and New Orleans R&B. Some of the material is routine, but there are some very strong cuts here, like a rousing "Sookie Sookie" and "Out on the Street Again", with its slightly sinister funk groove. "Feeling Uneasy", in fact, counts as one of the unsung highlights of her career, with a wrenching, near-wordless scat-moan vocal over a suitably languorous, melancholy blues-jazz arrangement. The CD reissue adds a couple of interesting bonus tracks: the 1975 single "Lovin' Arms", a good rootsy ballad, and a single edit of one of the tracks from the album, "Out on the Street Again".