required listening

CD Review

ETTA JAMES  -  Etta James & Sings For Lovers + Bonus Singles

Jasmine (UK) JASMCD 3128 (cd)

ETTA JAMES... Waiting For Charlie To Come Home; Guess Again; A Lover’s Mourn; You Can Count On Me; If I Can’t Have You; Something’s Got A Hold On Me; My Dear; Nobody But You; Let Me Know; Spoonfuli; ETTA JAMES SINGS FOR LOVERS... Don’t Take Your Love From Me; How Do You Speak To An Angel; Fools Rush In; Don’t Blame Me; Someone To Watch Over Me; Again; I Want To Be Loved; It Could Happen To You; These Foolish Things; Prisoner Of Love; NON-LP SINGLES... Stop The Wedding; Street Of Tears; Next Door To The Blues; Would It Make Any Difference To You

By 1962, when these two albums were issued, Etta James had become a regular fixture on the r&b charts in her native America and Chess, the parent record company of her Argo label recordings, were recognising her abiity to appeal across a variety of styles.  This is particularly acknowledged via the ‘...Sings For Lovers’ set but first, a look at her eponymous album, containing her rip-roaring, call-and-response gospel-rooted hit, ‘Something’s Got A Hold On Me’, its splendid Burt Bacharach/Bob Hilliard ballad flip, ‘Waiting For Charlie To Come Home’ and the successful duets with Harvey Fuqua - as Etta & Harvey - ‘If I Can’t Have You’ and ‘Spoonful’, the first of which is a writing collaboration between the twosome.  Elsewhere on the original ten-tracker, ‘A Lover’s Mourn’ is the sort of ballad number that Kay Starr might have recorded - she didn’t, I checked! - and ‘My Dear’, by the same composer (Lloyd Reese) enjoys a truly lush string arrangement, courtesy of Riley Hampton.  Hampton shared similar arranging tasks with Al Poskonka on ‘Etta James Sings For Lovers’, released later in the year.  A further ten tracks - they were rather mean in those days - this time gathering together a set of standards which Etta, only in her early twenties, executes to perfection with a maturity way greater than many of her compatriots at the time.  Picking a favourite or favourites is an invidious task, Jules Styne and Bob Hilliard’s tender ‘How Do You Speak To An Angel’ sits alongside the faster paced ‘Fools Rush In’, Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields’ ‘Don’t Blame Me’ first emerged thirty years earlier in a show called ‘Clowns In Clover’, while George and Ira Gershwin’s ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ is even older, being born in 1926.  Doubtless the set’s closing pair of ‘These Foolish Things’ and ‘Prisoner Of Love’ consciously (or unconsciously) inspired James Brown, him successfully charting with both songs just a year later.  Four bonus 1962 tracks round off this cd, most notably ‘Stop The Wedding’, which surely needs no introduction and ‘Would It Make Any Difference To You’, with its country lilt (as befits its Nashville songwriter, the late Bob Forshee).

US R&B Chart statistics  (peak positions: BB = ‘Billboard’, CB = ‘Cashbox’)...

How Do You Speak To An Angel  (Argo 45, 5430)  -  CB 43

Next Door To The Blues  (Argo 45, 5424)  -  BB 13, CB 11

Something’s Got A Hold On Me  (Argo 45, 5409)  -  BB 4, CB 5

Stop The Wedding  (Argo 45, 5418)  -  BB 6, CB 6

Would It Make Any Difference To You  (Argo 45, 5430)  -  CB 7                                                                                                                                  

review posted 15/8/19