The soundtrack to Maleficent, a reimagining of Disney's Sleeping Beauty from the villain's perspective, puts the focus on James Newton Howard's foreboding yet witty score. Stormy brass and percussion duke it out with sparkling strings and woodwinds on pieces that range from the tumultuous ("Maleficent Suite," "Battle of the Moors," "Path of Destruction") to the light-hearted ("Welcome to the Moors," "Aurora and the Fawn"). Lana Del Rey rounds out the album with an equally eerie and alluring version of "Once Upon a Dream," which serves as a reminder as to why she's become one of the most in-demand soundtrack contributors of the 2010s.
In many ways Etta James resembled a female Ray Charles in her unerring ability to tackle (and sometimes combine) all of the strands of American popular music, from rock & roll to R&B, blues, country, gospel, jazz, and pure pop and soul, while still maintaining a distinct feel and sound that was all her own, and she did this throughout a five-decade career that is impressive for its consistency. This 25-track set (mostly drawn from her time with Chess Records) is hardly definitive (it doesn't have classic James' tracks like "Anything to Say You're Mine," "Don't Cry Baby," "Something's Got a Hold on Me," or the girl group pop of "Two Sides (To Every Story)," for instance, or any of her late-career blues tracks), but it does do a good job of spotlighting James' range and versatility by collecting sides like her signature "At Last," the soul-pop masterpieces "Tell Mama" and "I'd Rather Go Blind," and saucy versions of Willie Dixon's "Spoonful" and Randy Newman's "You Can Leave Your Hat On," all of which offer ample proof that James was one of the best singers of her generation – in any style.