Sunday, February 19, 2012
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: ETTA JAMES - THE DREAMER
James is rightly considered one of the great singers of all time, and despite all her health issues, her voice never diminished on disc. Every song here gets a tremendous performance, whether a blues ballad, pop number or R'n'B classic. There's not many that can equal Otis Redding, but here she tackles two of his gems, the themed pair of Champagne & Wine and Cigarettes & Coffee, and makes them her own. Bobby "Blue" Bland's Dreamer sounds like it was written for her in the first place, and serves here as the closest number to a valedictory address. Across the board, the song choices are smart, and even the outlandish idea of covering Guns n' Roses Welcome To The Jungle works, as James recasts it as a funky and gritty piece.
Since the start of the 2000's, James has been working with her two sons, Donto and Sametto, a drummer and bass player respectively. Again, this is a situation that often turns out weakly (Frank Sinatra Jr., anyone?), more of a boost for the kids than the parent, but it turns out the boys not just looked after mom, together as co-producers, they came up with a plan and product that rivals anything from her long career. If you want to hear beyond At Last, there's nothing wrong with grabbing this as well as her earlier works.