Simply one of the greatest live blues albums ever captured on tape. Cut in 1963 at the New Era Club in Nashville, the set finds Etta James in stellar shape as she forcefully delivers her own "Something's Got a Hold on Me" and "Seven Day Fool" interspersed with a diet of sizzling covers ("What'd I Say," "Sweet Little Angel," "Money," "Ooh Poo Pah Doo"). The CD incarnation adds three more great titles, including an impassioned reprise of her "All I Could Do Was Cry." Guitarist David T. Walker is outstanding whenever he solos.
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.
After her tough blues and R&B records in the early years of the 21st century – 2003's Let's Roll and 2004's Blues to the Bone – Etta James throws a quiet storm changeup. All the Way's 11 tracks are pop songs – indeed, a few are standards – written between the 1930s and the 1990s. James song choices are curious. The Great American Songbook tunes include the title track (written by Samuel Kahn and Jimmy Van Heusen), Leonard Bernstein's and Stephen Sondheim's "Somewhere" from West Side Story, and even Bob Telson's "Calling You" from the score to the 1987 film Baghdad Cafe – it's been recorded by everyone from Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion to Jeff Buckley and Gal Costa…
This 15-track compilation focuses on the earliest sessions recorded by Etta James for Modern Records between 1955 and 1957. James was only a teenager when she first recorded for the L.A.-based label. Her youthful exuberance and powerhouse delivery still generate that initial excitement captured on these remastered versions of "The Wallflower (Roll with Me Henry)," "The Pick-Up," "W-O-M-A-N," and "Good Rockin' Daddy." This set is a great introduction to James' early raw recordings; however, it excludes a few tracks from the superior The Best of the Modern Years on Metro Blue.
Originally released on Warners Brothers to scant acclaim in 1978, this Jerry Wexler-produced masterpiece finds James in astounding voice with a batch of great material to apply her massive interpretive powers to. The band, including the cream of the late-'70s Los Angeles session hot-shots (Cornell Dupree, Jeff Porcaro, Chuck Rainey, Plas Johnson, Jim Horn), lays it down soulful and simple and the result is a modern-day R&B classic. Highlights abound throughout, but special attention must be turned to James' takes on "Only Women Bleed" and the Eagles' "Take It to the Limit."