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4.7 out of 5 stars
V1 Her Best
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Showing 1-10 of 28 reviews(5 star)show all reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2003
When songwriters Harry Warren and Mack Gordon had their composition At Last become the B-side to the 1942 Glenn Miller # 1 hit (I've Got A Gal In) Kalamazoo, they probably thought they had died and gone to Heaven. Especially when it too charted at a respectable # 14 with Ray Eberle doing the vocals. A decade later they struck paydirt again when the song was resurrected in the movie Orchestra Wives and then taken to # 2 by Ray Anthony & his orchestra.
But the best was yet to come, and when a 23-year-old from Los Angeles by the name of Jamesetta Hawkins decided to record it in 1961 under her stage name Etta James, from that point on it became HER song. It may not have done as well on the pop charts as the earlier versions [# 47] but it did become a # 2 R&B and is, by any standard, the best version of that enduring love song.
Her career had actually commenced in 1955 when, at age 17, she recorded an "answer" song to the 1954 # 1 R&B hit Work With Me Annie by The Midnighters [Hank Ballard and crew]. Also known as Roll With Me Henry, and with Richard Berry providing the bass male vocal, it too reached # 1 R&B early in 1955 as The Wallflower as by Etta James and "The Peaches" [hence the later nickname]. That same year Georgia Gibbs would have a # 1 pop with it as Dance With Me Henry.
Later that year she would have her second hit single when Good Rockin' Daddy climbed to # 8 R&B with the backing of The Dreamers, a group that included the great Jesse Belvin, and Maxwell Davis & His Orchestra.
Personal problems then set in, and Etta would be off the charts until early 1960 when she returned with the stirring ballad All I Could Do Was Cry, which scored on both the R&B [# 2] and pop [# 33] charts. And from there right through to 1976 she would be seldom off the charts, racking up another 27 R&B hits and putting 26 more on the pop charts.
This CD gives you the best of those along with nine pages of liner notes by Peter Grendysa of Words On Music Ltd., a partial discography of the contents [no chart information], and two more nice photographs of Etta, who was inducted into the R&R Hall of Fame in 1993.
Just 65 years old, Etta is still wowing them in personal appearances. This is a must-have compilation for any true R&B fan.
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on September 6, 2002
There's a wonderful story of "All I Could Do Was Cry" from an ancient book on musicians of the 50's and early 60's: paraphrasing Ms. Etta "That old Leonard Chess didn't know nothing about music. He'd see me patting my foot to a tune and holler 'That's it. That's the hit.' Sometimes I'd pat my foot to a piece of junk just to mess with him. He never caught on."
The story I won a bet with was how Leonard used to get into the audio booth at the Chess studio WITH Etta (tight squeeze, no doubt), would pinch, poke, tickle her at places in the song where he thought she ought to "squall." (If you don't know what "squall" is ...) With that background, "All I Could Do" makes much more musical sense. When Etta sings "and now, the wedding is over, rice ... RICE has been tossed over their heads ..." You can bet the farm that Leonard has just goosed Etta. "I'd come out of a session black and blue from all the hitting and pinching he'd done on me."
If you are a fan of Etta, you should also meet Big Maybelle, for my two cents the greatest female singer ever! Give some of her "torch songs" a listen, I've always thought of Etta as a latter-day Big Maybelle.
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on February 20, 2001
One day I decided to visit the mega HMV store in downtown Toronto in search of Blues and Jazz CDs, which is a genre I have been increasingly becoming a fan of. I knew the song "At Last" (like many people) as it is indeed a Classic and has been featured in many movies. I liked it enough to look for Etta James in the Blues section and I am so glad the first Jamesetta CD I bought was this one!
You know there are some CDs that grow on you and there are some you love from the get go. This Greatest Hits package duly falls in the latter category. What a wonderful collection of soulful, somber, pop-rock, r&b, jazzy and uptempo songs! It would be difficult for me to rank them as I love almost each and everyone of the tracks. I bought this album last summer and it still sounds so invigorating and fulfilling even after playing it for God knows how many times!
For someone who was not born until the mid seventies and who did not become very familiar with western music until the early nineties (except eighties music that I grew up listening to in guess where?... Bangladesh!), this CD made me take a renewed interest in music that was created back in the 60's whether it be the Beatles or Marvin Gaye. Too bad that artists like Ms. James never got ALL the accolades or commercial success they actually deserve.
Almost every time I listen to her music and THAT voice I can't help but cry. I have never been moved so much my someone's singing that comes from so deep within one's soul.
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on October 15, 2000
I discovered Etta James when I was a teenaged black girl growing up in Berkeley, California. I was too young for Muddy Waters, and Billie Holiday. Before I was born,my parents fled segregated New Orleans for the wartime jobs of Oakland and San Francisco naval bases. I heard blues in the background of my life. From my aunt's honky-tonk piano playing to the sexual innuendo of Big Mama Thorton. I took it all in. This album captures every single bit of the innuendo of my life, either real or imagined.
I love the songs everyone loves, At Last, A Sunday Kind of Love, Fool That am I, Trust in Me, All I Could Do is Cry. These songs speak truth to a woman's powerlessness. What I noticed after playing this album over, and over, and over is that she sounds like a horn, a sassy, jazzy blues horn. When she goes wanh, wanh, wanh, in Jimmy Reed's, Baby, What you Want Me to Do, she is the perfect vocal instrument. Anyone who wants to meet Etta, must have this cd. I have the two cd box set and other "essential" cds, but this is simply THE BEST!
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on October 3, 1999
Etta James was born, Joshua James Etters, in Atlanta, Georgia on May 23, 1930. The world now knows him as Etta James, the soulful and powerful voice behind the legendary "background song", AT LAST. When I first heard this beautiful song I was watching television in my Manhattan apartment. It was, as I recall, a commercial for Jaguar Motors. I leaned forward in my chair, stared at my TV and said, "WOW!" It was then and there that I set out to learn all I could about the overweight, poor little farmer's son who grew up to be one of the world's greatest female impersonators...a true drag diva before the word and genre was fashionable. This CD says it all. Lean back and imagine that you are driving your '62 Buick to the Jersey Shore... Kennedy's is President and..."LIFE IS LIKE A SONG".
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on August 5, 1999
Though Sis. Etta James is but one in a long line of great female blues/jazz singers, her unique style and grace are quite evident. It is also clear that there is a passion she sings with obviously due to the fact all the joy and/or pain in each song she has experienced AT LEAST once in her life. As is true for most African vocal artists, it is also clear she received her early training in The Church, the solid rock of our communities. THANK YOU SIS. ETTA JAMES FOR ALL THE GREAT MUSIC OF YOUR CAREER; MAY GOD CONTINUE TO BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU IN ALL FUTURE ENDEAVORS!
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on June 20, 2000
The selection of songs on this CD is terrific. Etta James can sing anything from ballads to rock better than anyone alive, and these songs show off her range (besides being some of her best stuff). But I'd suggest going straight for The Essential Etta James. It costs more, but it's got twice as many songs, and every one is a gem. (Besides, you just can't call it Etta's "best" without including her brilliant, gospel-tinged "God's Song.") Once you hear Etta James sing, you'll wish you had the larger collection.
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on August 22, 1999
I had ordered this CD via amazon.com and perhaps I didnt really expected I would love it so much.This woman was (is) incredible force-power and obviously she had inspired many other artists (Janis Joplin for one).As years were passing she was better and better, I just can't stop wondering what would be if she was duetting with her pals Ester Phillips or Tina Turner back in 60-ies? They shared the same stage on many occasions and it would be great to hear these talents together!
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on August 9, 1999
Etta James has one of the most amazing voices you can imagine, and it is beautifully showcased in this remastered CD. Her voice, as it should, always maintains center stage, and the choice of songs in this compilation allows you to sample several different styles and periods in which Etta performed. This is a great intro to this wonderful artist, and is a must-have for any serious fan of the blues or music in general.
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on February 23, 1999
This album is perfect for both the individual who is searching for a complete introduction to Etta and the Etta fan who wants an album which encompasses all of her styles. The songs range from romantic ballads to blues to funky Curtis Mayfield-type compositions. The recordings are clear and perfectly arranged. I played this 20-song CD during a dinner party and it wasn't over until dessert.
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