C8S12CD2 picked by @bearclarej takes me into the soul section of my collection and an album I originally had on vinyl, alas not the original pressing as I suspect that would be worth a few pounds by now!
As I think I have mentioned before I got into soul music through a love of Van Morrison and once I got past the soul masters, Redding, Green, Gaye, Franklin etc, I discovered a lot of soul by picking artists by labels. If I found anything on either Chess, Stax, Hi, or Motown in most cases I was guaranteed to get some quality music. This release is on the Chess label more known for its blues releases being the main label for Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf, but it also had a number of classic soul artists, Fontella Bass and Etta James being 2 worth a mention. James started as a soul diva and is still recording music to this day although her styling has been much more blues focused of late.
Like most soul albums the songs are about love; falling in love, being in love, cheating in love and falling out of love, you know the score, titles like I’s Rather Go Blind, Don’t Lose Your Good Thing, I’m Gonna Take What He’s Got, all fall into these categories and are classic slices of 60’s soul. The stand out tracks are the title track Tell Mama, and the aforementioned I’d Rather Go Blind, which to this day are 2 of the songs that James is known for. Other tracks worth a mention are, My Mother-In-Law, an ode to the singers’ hatred of the said relation, and Security penned by the wonderful Otis Redding. I’m not sure if James recorded it before or after Redding as in the early days of soul often a number of artists would record the same track and it wasn’t always the first to record that had the hit. An example of this is Heard it Through The Grapevine, written by Marvin Gaye and a track which is synonymise with Gaye, was actually recorded by Gladys Knight and The Pips first but wasn’t a hit for them.
In 2009 Beyonce starred in a film called Cadillac Records, playing Etta James in a film charting story of Chess Records, this opened up Etta James’ music to a whole new audience. I can confirm this as I got a text from my 17 niece asking if I had any Etta James CDs!
If you like soul music but are looking for a female vocalist other than Aretha Franklin (and truthfully sometimes it’s hard to get past Franklin) then Etta James is certainly worth looking up.
The video isn't the original version of I'd Rather Go Blind but it shows the power of James' voice.