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The Chess Box

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Roberta Penn
No one who came out of the '60s Chess Records stable has run as hard, taken as many personal injuries, and gotten back up to be more of a contender than the soul singer Etta James. She hit the R&B charts at age 16, made a living performing where ever she could when soul fell from mass favor, and today, at 60, is still a best-selling blues artist. The key to her endurance is versatility, and that is what shouts out like a choir of hard-knocks survivors on the three-CD set Etta James: The Chess Box . Though the cuts only cover the period between 1960 and 1976, a small part of her four-and-a-half decade career, the essence of Etta James is all here. On early Chess ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Roberta Penn
No one who came out of the '60s Chess Records stable has run as hard, taken as many personal injuries, and gotten back up to be more of a contender than the soul singer Etta James. She hit the R&B charts at age 16, made a living performing where ever she could when soul fell from mass favor, and today, at 60, is still a best-selling blues artist. The key to her endurance is versatility, and that is what shouts out like a choir of hard-knocks survivors on the three-CD set Etta James: The Chess Box . Though the cuts only cover the period between 1960 and 1976, a small part of her four-and-a-half decade career, the essence of Etta James is all here. On early Chess singles the ballad "My Dearest Darling" and the more raunchy "I Just Want to Make Love to You," James coos and growls like an almost-grown cheetah romping on a bed of strings. There is the inside glance at her personal life on duets with a man she had a huge crush on, Harvey Fuqua. Though the young love was unrequited, there is an intimacy inherent in their version of "If I Can't Have You," while a smoldering sexuality pervades "Spoonful." The under-appreciated R&B singer Sugar Pie DeSanto duets with James on the screaming party tune "In the Basement" and the sweet and soulful "Do I Make Myself Clear." Like Ray Charles, James also has a penchant for turning country music into soul, which is attested to in her version of the Gene Autry-penned "Be Honest with Me" and other cuts from a 1962 Nashville recording session. As rock began to outdistance R&B in the mid '60s, James's fluffy material --- tunes like "These Foolish Things" from the syrupy 1962 album Etta James Sings For Lovers -- gave way to the harder-edged, Southern-fried soul of "I Prefer You" and "Tell Mama." Some of these tunes, in addition to her most memorable ballad of the era, "I'd Rather Go Blind," were actually recorded at Muscle Shoals with the players who assisted Aretha Franklin in her ascendancy to Queen of Soul. James began covering rock songs in the late '60s, and both the successful and the not-so-great are included in this set. Her version of "Light My Fire" by the Doors never catches a spark, and the previously unreleased cover of the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost that Loving Feeling" is good but not inspired. However when it comes to Randy Newman material, James is amazing.Her Gabriel Mekler-produced version of Newman's "Let's Burn Down the Cornfields" is definitive. James begins slow and sexy, then builds to a roaring sensuality that not only sets the cornfields afire but torches the entire plantation while she's making love to her man with her voice. Since the 72 songs on THE CHESS BOX are placed chronologically, it is obvious that her sound and success were often dependent on producers who weren't sure what to do with the big, bold voice of a woman-child. But James's endurance and talent prevailed over their ignorance, vanity, and experimentation. She shines through even on clunkers like the overwrought "St. Louis Blues," making this three-CD set not only a personal triumph but also a great documentation of the evolution of popular music of the era.
All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Etta James is one of the towering figures of the blues, the foremost female blues vocalist of the second half of the 20th century, and the foundation of her legacy is her recordings for Chess Records in the '60s. Despite her reputation and enduring popularity, Etta didn't receive a box set retrospective between 1988 and 1990, the time when Chess was honoring such heavyweights as Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Bo Diddley, and Willie Dixon with multi-disc retrospectives. They eased away from box sets during the '90s, only issuing a comprehensive double-disc Little Walter set early in the decade, but they finally returned to the sets in 2000 with a long-overdue Chess Box for Etta James. Like before, when they assembled terrific sets on Berry and Waters, they got it right. Collectors may find a favorite side missing, but the great majority of her best work for Argo, Cadet, and Chess is here. Although there are a handful of unreleased tracks, the point behind this set is to provide a thorough overview of the most pivotal years in James' career, and on that level, it succeeds tremendously. Like many career-spanning sets, it does dip slightly in quality on the last disc, but not enough to make this anything less than an essential addition to a thorough blues library, since even on the lesser material, she sounds terrific. As a matter of fact, it's rather astonishing how strong all these recordings are, from her terrific vocals to the songs themselves. It's a shame it didn't come out with the first round of Chess Boxes, but it was worth the wait.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 6/27/2000
  • Label: Chess
  • UPC: 008811228828
  • Catalog Number: 112288
  • Sales rank: 25,109

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 All I Could Do Was Cry (2:57)
  2. 2 My Dearest Darling (3:04)
  3. 3 If I Can't Have You (3:01)
  4. 4 I Just Want to Make Love to You (3:08)
  5. 5 Anything to Say You're Mine (2:37)
  6. 6 In My Diary (2:37)
  7. 7 Spoonful (2:49)
  8. 8 A Sunday Kind of Love (3:18)
  9. 9 At Last (3:02)
  10. 10 Stormy Weather (3:10)
  11. 11 Trust in Me (3:01)
  12. 12 Don't Cry Baby (2:27)
  13. 13 Fool That I Am (2:59)
  14. 14 One for My Baby (And One More for the Road) (3:29)
  15. 15 Waiting for Charlie (To Come Home) (2:08)
  16. 16 Don't Get Around Much Anymore (2:28)
  17. 17 Next Door to the Blues (2:51)
  18. 18 I Don't Want It (2:20)
  19. 19 Something's Got a Hold on Me (2:50)
  20. 20 Stop the Wedding (2:53)
  21. 21 These Foolish Things (4:01)
  22. 22 You Got Me Where You Want Me (2:53)
  23. 23 I Want to Be Loved (But Only By You) (3:27)
  24. 24 Prisoner of Love (2:15)
  25. 25 Pushover (2:57)
  26. 26 Be Honest with Me (3:05)
Disc 2
  1. 1 Would It Make Any Difference to You (2:39)
  2. 2 Look Who's Blue (2:26)
  3. 3 Pay Back (2:40)
  4. 4 Two Sides to Every Story (3:03)
  5. 5 At Last (3:12)
  6. 6 Baby, What You Want Me to Do (4:18)
  7. 7 Lovin' You More Every Day (3:22)
  8. 8 I Wish Someone Would Care (2:37)
  9. 9 Bobby Is His Name (3:31)
  10. 10 Only Time Will Tell (3:23)
  11. 11 (I Don't Need Nobody To Tell Me) How To Treat My Man (3:03)
  12. 12 In the Basement, Pt. 1 (2:23)
  13. 13 Lover Man (3:54)
  14. 14 Do I Make Myself Clear? (3:00)
  15. 15 I Perfer You (3:05)
  16. 16 It Must Be Your Love (2:59)
  17. 17 842-3089 (Call My Name) (3:01)
  18. 18 I'd Rather Go Blind (2:35)
  19. 19 Tell Mama (2:23)
  20. 20 Do Right Woman, Do Right Man (3:00)
  21. 21 Security (2:30)
  22. 22 I Worship the Ground You Walk On (2:26)
  23. 23 You Took It (2:38)
  24. 24 Almost Persuaded (3:22)
  25. 25 You Got It (2:26)
  26. 26 Light My Fire (2:51)
Disc 3
  1. 1 Slow and Easy (3:20)
  2. 2 The Soul of a Man (3:15)
  3. 3 Miss Pitiful (2:24)
  4. 4 Losers Weepers, Pt. 1 (3:02)
  5. 5 I Found a Love (3:28)
  6. 6 W-O-M-A-N (3:17)
  7. 7 Never My Love (3:52)
  8. 8 I Never Meant to Love Him (3:52)
  9. 9 You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin (6:11)
  10. 10 Sail Away (4:00)
  11. 11 Down So Low (3:42)
  12. 12 All the Way Down (5:35)
  13. 13 God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind) (3:39)
  14. 14 Feeling Uneasy (2:49)
  15. 15 St. Louis Blues (4:32)
  16. 16 Let's Burn Down the Cornfield (4:04)
  17. 17 Gonna Have Some Fun Tonight (3:46)
  18. 18 Sookie, Sookie (3:11)
  19. 19 Out on the Street Again (4:21)
  20. 20 Lovin' Arms (3:48)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Etta James Primary Artist
Technical Credits
Etta James Composer
Bessie Smith Composer
Jimmie Davis Composer
Louis Prima Composer
Irma Thomas Composer
W.C. Handy Composer
Marshall Chess Liner Notes
Tony Clarke Composer
Esmond Edwards Liner Notes
Bill Foster Composer
Lee Hildebrand Liner Notes
Bill Inglot Remixing
Terry McFaddin Composer
James Mitchell Composer
Billy Sherrill Composer
John Strother Remixing
Glenn Sutton Composer
Robert West Composer
Raynard Miner Composer
Vartan Art Direction
Mike Ragogna Remastering
Erick Labson Remixing, Remastering
Billy Davis Composer
Anita Leonard Composer
Abbey Mallory Composer
Stan Rhodes Composer
Barbara Belle Composer
Shena DeMell Composer
Sax Kari Composer
Peylia Parham Composer
Ronald Carson Composer
Ellington Jordan Composer
Carl Williams Smith Composer
Dorothy Hawkins Composer
Jean Mitchell Composer
Michael Angelo Graham Composer
Robby Krieger Composer
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