Saturday, 15 February 2014

“The Complete Private Stock Blues, Rock ‘n’ Soul Albums Collection” by ETTA JAMES - A Review Of The 2013 7CD Mini Box Set.

Here is a link to Amazon UK to buy this et at the best price:

“…No Matter The Cost…I Was Ready To Pay…”

This dinky 7CD mini box set gathers together an unfairly overlooked period of Etta James’ extraordinary catalogue – the late Nineties and beyond. It features the CD orientated PRIVATE STOCK label and a string of albums on it considering by many fans as a ‘second coming’ for her. Here’s the gin-soaked whiskey-guzzling tnt-smoking bluesy details:

Originally released 2012 “The Complete Private Stock Blues, Rock ‘n’ Soul Albums Collection" is on Sony Music/Legacy 886919058892 and breaks down as follows:

1. Love's Been Rough On Me (1997, 10 tracks, 41:11 minutes)
2. Life Love & The Blues (1998, 12 tracks, 59:38 minutes)
3. Matriarch Of The Blues (2000, 12 tracks, 64:25 minutes)
4. Burnin' Down The House (2002 Live Set, 12 tracks, 72:44 minutes)
5. Let's Roll (2003, 12 tracks, 58:35 minutes)
6. Blues To The Bone (2004, 12 tracks, 47:57 minutes)
7. (Bonus Disc) Live From San Francisco (1994, 8 Tracks, 42:15 minutes)

The 5” mini repro sleeves are all single issues with white borders and no inners. All the details are transferred into the info-packed 24-page booklet which features album-by-album annotation and a hugely affection 3-page essay on the great lady by renowned Soul/Jazz Writer and Presenter BOB PORTER.

There is no remastering in this set – no need – all were beautifully produced in the first place with top class guitarists, keyboard players and horn sections pumping up every single track. If I was to describe the guitar playing (“Love It Or Leave It Alone” is a good example) – think Gary Moore circa “Still Got The Blues” accompanied by a powerhouse rhythm section and Etta letting it rip on the vocals – you get the idea. When she does slow it right down like on “Cry Like A Rainy Day”, “If I Had Any Pride Left At All” and her stripped-back cover of Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” – the keys come into the fore to really sweet effect. The production values are fabulous – so clear and yet still full of power…not sanitized in any way…

It isn’t all misery blues either – covers like “Born Under A Bad Sign” (Albert King), “Spoonful” (Howlin’ Wolf) and “Hoochie Coochie Gal [Man]” (Muddy Waters) see the band rock it out like The Fabulous Thunderbirds with a great female vocalist (Jimmy “Z” Zavala giving it superb harmonica wailing throughout). We even get slinky Sly Stone Soul in her cover of his “If You Want Me To Stay”.

Even though she tries to boogie up and funkify Dylan’s  “Gotta Serve Somebody”, The Stones’ “Miss You” and CCR’s “Born On The Bayou” – none is particularly good. Better is her slow bluesy cover of Ray Charles’ “Come Back Baby” and her almost Creedence take on Presley’s “Hound Dog”. She gives it some Soul and Easy Listening in the near 10-minute medley of two Al Green tunes “Love & Happiness” and “Take Me To The River” with that old time perennial “My Funny Valentine”

Credited to Etta James & The Roots Band – the live set “Burnin’ Down The House” goes a long way to restoring faith after the uninspired covers album “Matriarch Of The Blues”. Her version of “I Just Want To Make Love To You” which is mixed in with Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild” is genuinely exciting hard-hitting boogie-band blues. And she tears the house down with “At Last” a song that now seems inextricably associated with marriage.

2003’s “Let’s Roll” featured strong Delbert McClinton tunes like “Somebody To Love” and “Wayward Saints Of Memphis” with many of the others “Strongest Weakness” and “Old Weakness” written by long-time collaborator Gary Nicholson. Once again the band features blistering Zavala harmonica playing.
The “Blues To The Bone” album gets all Stray Cats at times and is another winner – the acoustic slide blues of “Little Red Rooster” is great fun as is the grooving boogie of Al Green’s superb “Driving Wheel”. And on it goes to another cracking live set…

For fans this box offers nothing they don’t already have – but if you’ve lapsed on the latter half of her career – then this lovely reissue holds a wad of goodies and in some quarters at less than a pound or a dollar per disc.

Jamesetta Hawkins was born in 1938 and passed away in 2012 having won every award there was in Soul, R’n’B and even Rockabilly. This classy little release does her memory proud…

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