I was introduced to Etta James with Tell Mama, which I've always thought was a fantastic song. In 1984, I picked up a French pressing of "Peaches", a double LP of her best Chess material. I can still remember listening to that album for the first time. I was absolutely blown away! Not just with her voice, but with the quality of the songs, arrangements and sound. It became one of my most treasured albums, and there it stayed until I picked up the original Tell Mama CD in '90. Though it was in mono (I was at that time a snooty stereo guy), I thoroughly loved it. I was aware of how great Rick Hall, Fame and the whole Muscle Shoals scene was; how they turned out so many great records.
This is an essential reissue, as it includes all of the songs that Etta cut there. The unreleased stuff is nearly as good as the original album. I now find out that most of the original masters were mono only, for some reason. At least we get the stereo masters that exist. It is evident from the pictures and the quotes included in this package that there was a ton of mutual respect between the Muscle Shoals folks and Etta, and it shows in the music. As it turned out, these sessions gave Etta her last big hit, unfortunately. But it certainly wasn't the end of her producing great music; her ongoing career is a testament to that.
I've grown to love almost everything that Etta did for Chess, particularly the earlier stuff, when crossover was the primary aim. Her treatment of standards and ballads was exquisite. But when she came to Alabama, it was to cut Southern-fried soul, and she nailed it!
An essential Etta record, an essential soul record, an essential '60s record. 'Nuff said.