These 44 cuts (with booklet) trace her entire career with Chess, from the early, pop-flavored ballads to the gritty, Muscle Shoals material. Includes Tell Mama; Pushover; All I Could Do Was Cry; Fool That I Am; Stop the Wedding; Security , and more.
Etta James is the dues-paying blues mama. Throughout her tragic and storied career, Miss Peaches has successfully delivered her growling soul and soaring vocals to everything from Chicago blues to pop. Her voice is one of the most distinctive in the entire blues canon and The Essential Etta James captures it in its prime; 44 tracks cover her best Chess Records work from 1960 to the early ’70s. And though her early R&B hits for Modern like “Roll with Me Henry” are not here, just about everything else is: the supreme balladry of “All I Could Do Was Cry” and “At Last,” the sassy bump of “Seven-Day Fool” and “Pushover,” the raucous soul of “In the Basement,” and even bell-bottomed funk of “All the Way Down.” But the finest evidence of James’s versatility can be heard in her outstanding Memphis soul covers of “Tell Mama” and “Security.” There’s a lot of Etta James out there, but this is likely the best compilation of her work you’re going to find. —Ken Hohman
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