Thursday, 7 June 2012

“Queen Of Soul” by ETTA JAMES. A Review Of Her 1964 Argo Records LP - Now Reissued And Remastered Onto An Ace Records/Kent Soul CD In 2012 With Bonus Tracks.

Etta James is part of my "SOUNDS GOOD: Exceptional CD Remasters Soul, Funk & Jazz Fusion" Download Book available to buy on Amazon to either your PC or Mac (it will download the Kindle software to read the book for free to your toolbar). Click on the link below to go my Author's Page for this and other related publications:


"…You Got Me So I Can’t Eat...I'm Loving You More Every Day..."

2011 turned out to be a bumper year for fans of the American Soul legend Etta James. February saw the "Who's Blue" Kent Soul compilation with 24 elusive tracks on Chess and Cadet - while October saw the first official CD release of "Call My Name" - a criminally forgotten Cadet Records LP from 1967. Then came "Losers Weepers" in October - an obscure album from 1970 with 11 bonus tracks (again first time on CD). Continuing that run into 2012 is this - her 1964 "Queen Of Soul" album in Stereo - also bolstered up with a copious amount of relevant bonus tracks. Here are the finite details...

UK released Monday 28 May 2012 (12 June 2012 in the USA) - Ace Records/Kent Soul CDKEND 377 breaks down as follows (68:22 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 10 are the 'Stereo' LP "Queen Of Soul" - released November 1964 in the USA on Argo Records LPS-4040

Track 11 is "You Got Me Where You Want Me" - a 1965 outtake first issued in 2000 on "The Chess Box" - a 3CD box set on MCA/Chess 088 112 288-2 [Disc 1]
Tracks 14, 20 and 22 are "You Can't Talk To A Fool", "Lover Man (Oh, Where Can He Be?)" and "Tomorrow Night" - all outtakes first released on the 1997 American CD compilation "These Foolish Things - The Classic Balladry Of Etta James" on MCA/Chess MCD 09354. The other bonus tracks are singles as listed below...

This CD will also allow fans to sequence almost 10 of her US 45's released off and around the album [track number after the title - exclusions noted]:
1. Stop The Wedding [16] b/w Street Of Tears [not included] on Argo 5418 (1962)
2. How Do You Speak To An Angel [17] b/w Would It Make Any Difference To You [15] on Argo 5430 (1962)
3. Pushover [13] b/w I Can't Hold It In Any More [23] on Argo 5437 (1963)
4. Be Honest With Me [18] b/w Pay Back [[19] on Argo 5445 (1963)
5. Two Sides (To Every Story) [21] b/w I Worry Bout You [9] on Argo 5452 (1963)
6. Baby What You Want Me To Do b/w What I Say on Argo 5459 (1964) [neither included]
7. Look Who's Blue [not included] b/w Loving You More Every Day [7] on Argo 5465 (1964)
8. Breaking Point [5] b/w That Man Belongs Here With Me [3] on Argo 5477 (1964)
9. Mellow Fellow [10] b/w Bobby Is His Name [1] on Argo 5485 (1964)
10. Only Time Will Tell [12] b/w I'm Sorry For You [not included] on Cadet 5526 (1966)
[Note: Tracks 11, 13, 16, 18 and 23 are MONO - all others are STEREO]

The first thing that hits you is the HUGE STEREO SOUND. Remastered by DUNCAN COWELL at Sound Mastering in London - I've sung this engineer's praises before (I reviewed all the Blue Horizon CDs he handled) - and again - it's a bang-up job. There's amazing clarity on every song - clean Stereo separation too and a huge presence on instruments - especially the brass and percussion. It is hissy in places - "Bobby Is His Name" and "Somewhere In Time" - but that's a plus because it hasn't been noise-reduced or cleaned - just left alone and allowed to breath. It's a great listen and hugely evocative of the period. The MONO variant of the LP isn't on here I know - but the large number of bonus tracks (including rarities) more than makes up for that.

The 12-page colour booklet is crammed with photos of 7" singles (most of the titles listed above), Billboard and Cash Box magazine adverts from 1962, 1963 and 1964 - as well as a set of deeply personal liner notes by GARTH CARTWRIGHT (who wrote her obituary for England's Guardian newspaper). Contributions to the compilation also came from Rudy Calvo, Mickey McGill (of The Dells), David Yeats and Mick Patrick. Like its three CD predecessors - it's a typically classy effort from Ace...

Highlights for me are her cover of the Irma Thomas slow burner "I Wish Someone Would Care" and the brass/organ funk of "Breaking Point" where she sounds not unlike a female Ray Charles. The languid "Flight 101" informs us that "the ring, the rice, the shoes, will be waiting there..." while a real powerhouse performance comes in the shape of "Loving You More Every Day" (lyrics above). It's surely the reason why so many lovers of Sixties Soul rate Etta so - no need for sheet music - like Otis she just punches out the passion with her gut-wrenching voice. The pace is upped on "Do Right" and there's a Dinah Washington feel to "I Worry About You". 

The singles are a mixed bag - the cheesy "Stop The Wedding" mixes with the girly pop of "Two Sides (To Every Story)" and neither is particularly memorable. But things get better with the ballad "Only Time Will Tell" and what's shocking too is the quality of the three outtakes - especially her lovely cover of LaVern Baker's 1955 Atlantic classic "Tomorrow Night" - great production and nicely arranged strings.

Etta James sadly passed away in January 2012 after a lifetime of well-documented illnesses and addictions - eliciting an outpouring of affection from fans, industry insiders and singers alike.

This excellent CD will prolong her legacy. And once again Ace has championed someone worth remembering...and delivered the goods.

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