Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Etta James – Deep in the Night

Among many blues and soul singers the real prominent personality disposing the voice of unusual power was Etta James. She was influencing rhythm and blues, gospel and jazz singers for almost half of the century. Her rich sound and bright personality were always clearly pronounced, defining the boundaries of vocal expression. First period, singing as a child prodigy in St. Paul Baptist Church in Los Angeles and beginnings with doo-wop in San Francisco was her starting point. Being fourteen she was auditioned by Johnny Otis and started to sing with his patronage. He helped her sign first record contract with Modern Records until 1960, when she sign with Leonard Chess contract for Chess Records.
Two Chess decades were the times of her greatest successes – she lasted with the company until 1978 recording 13 albums for Argo label, later for Cadet - both were subsidiaries of Chess Records. In the beginnings she was recording in duets with Harvey Fuqua and his group The Moonglows. Single hits in duet with Harvey Fuqua Spoonful and If I Can’t Have You became immediate hits. Leonard Chess discovered a singer’s talent and was able to manage her career in such a way that she could take advantage of crossover possibilities. In 1961 she recorded debut album At Last! And this was real beginning of her brilliant career. Her discography comprise 31 albums but real title for her phenomenal fame were singles reaching total number of 58. Many of them long standing hits like cover of Baby, What You Want Me To Do by Jimmy Reed she recorded in 1964. This is perfect example of classic singing lady blues.

Etta James – Deep in the Night (1978)

Released by Warner Bros in 1978 Deep In The Night was last album Etta James recorded for Chess Records. This album perfectly sung by Etta James and set by the band and backing vocals is made out of classical blues and soul hits. Some rock ballads have been arranged to be more blues. The program of the album includes Laying Beside You by The Tamlins, Piece of My Heart from Janis Joplin repertoire, Alice Cooper’s song Only Women Bleed, The Eagles 1975 hit Take it to the Limit and Deep in the Night known from Sarah Vaughan rendition in 1971 Inner City musical, strong, almost rock version of known from numerous renditions Lovesick Blues, beautiful version of gospel song Strange Man by Dorothy Love Coates, Sugar on the Floor by Kiki Dee, Sweet Touch of Love by Allen Toussaint and her own classic from 1968 Blind Girl.
The ten songs are mostly arranged in blues style with firmly accented rock, soul and gospel backgrounds. It’s interesting how much her blues roots occurred universal language on every style from soul to funk and from blues to rock and jazz. Title song, closing A Side Deep In The Night in Etta James interpretation with its perfect sound, lyrics, piano and strings arrangement and natural expression has huge thrilling potential. Thank to this recordings her voice still sounds young and beautiful. It is worth to remembering this way, especially since the memory is the only justice we can afford. Etta James died January 20, 2012 in Riverside, just five days before her 74th birthday losing the battle with disease she was fought last years.

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