Wednesday, August 15, 2012


The late, great Etta James had a tumultuous career, but when she was on, which was most of the time, she was awesome.  And she remained so until the end of her days, as witnessed by surprisingly strong solo outings and a rigorous touring schedule at times.  That's made obvious by this strong live collection which captures performances from 1975 to 1993, at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival, where she was a regular.

Best of all, and another surprise, is the set of songs that comes from '93.  Well past her 60's and 70's hits, she's in great voice here, with tons of energy.  And, she's busy plugging a new album.  I remember really liking the How Strong Is A Woman disc when it came out then, and here she brings full passion to the title cut.  That it sits so well beside classics like I'd Rather Go Blind says lots.

The three songs from '75 have classic and tough soul though, rough and ready for a tougher time for Etta.  Her take on The Staple Singers Respect Yourself if more of an order than advice, and it doesn't feel churchy at all.  And if you want deep blues, she hits you with Dust My Broom.  The only downside to the set is the inclusion of the dreaded medley.  Here, it's a waste of the wonderful At Last, over too soon as it goes into Trust In Me and A Sunday Kind Of Love.  How 1977.  But everything else on this 75-minute disc is top drawer.

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