The Chess Box

The Chess Box

by Etta JamesEtta James


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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.

Product Details

Release Date: 06/27/2000
Label: Chess
UPC: 0008811228828
catalogNumber: 112288
Rank: 81937


Disc 1

  1. All I Could Do Was Cry
  2. My Dearest Darling
  3. If I Can't Have You
  4. I Just Want to Make Love to You
  5. Anything to Say You're Mine
  6. In My Diary
  7. Spoonful
  8. A Sunday Kind of Love
  9. At Last
  10. Stormy Weather
  11. Trust in Me
  12. Don't Cry Baby
  13. Fool That I Am
  14. One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)
  15. Waiting for Charlie (To Come Home)
  16. Don't Get Around Much Anymore
  17. Next Door to the Blues
  18. I Don't Want It
  19. Something's Got a Hold on Me
  20. Stop the Wedding
  21. These Foolish Things
  22. You Got Me Where You Want Me
  23. I Want to Be Loved (But Only By You)
  24. Prisoner of Love
  25. Pushover
  26. Be Honest with Me

Disc 2

  1. Would It Make Any Difference to You
  2. Look Who's Blue
  3. Pay Back
  4. Two Sides to Every Story
  5. At Last
  6. Baby, What You Want Me to Do
  7. Lovin' You More Every Day
  8. I Wish Someone Would Care
  9. Bobby Is His Name
  10. Only Time Will Tell
  11. (I Don't Need Nobody To Tell Me) How To Treat My Man
  12. In the Basement, Pt. 1
  13. Lover Man
  14. Do I Make Myself Clear?
  15. I Perfer You
  16. It Must Be Your Love
  17. 842-3089 (Call My Name)
  18. I'd Rather Go Blind
  19. Tell Mama
  20. Do Right Woman, Do Right Man
  21. Security
  22. I Worship the Ground You Walk On
  23. You Took It
  24. Almost Persuaded
  25. You Got It
  26. Light My Fire

Disc 3

  1. Slow and Easy
  2. The Soul of a Man
  3. Miss Pitiful
  4. Losers Weepers, Pt. 1
  5. I Found a Love
  6. W-O-M-A-N
  7. Never My Love
  8. I Never Meant to Love Him
  9. You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin
  10. Sail Away
  11. Down So Low
  12. All the Way Down
  13. God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)
  14. Feeling Uneasy
  15. St. Louis Blues
  16. Let's Burn Down the Cornfield
  17. Gonna Have Some Fun Tonight
  18. Sookie, Sookie
  19. Out on the Street Again
  20. Lovin' Arms

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Etta James   Primary Artist

Technical Credits

Etta James   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
James Mitchell   Composer
Billy Sherrill   Composer
John Strother   Remixing
Glenn Sutton   Composer
Robert West   Composer
Terri McFadden   Composer
Raynard Miner   Composer
Vartan   Art Direction
Erick Labson   Remixing
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
Don Covay   Composer

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