Ace does it again -- of course. These two discs, The Complete Modern and Kent Recordings
, contain every side that the young powerhouse Etta James cut for Modern, Crown, and Kent between 1955 and 1961. There are 42 cuts on these two discs, remastered and sequenced painstakingly according to release date. There are no less than seven previously unissued cuts, and two more that have appeared only on Ace compilations. (There's a killer alternate take of "Hey Henry" here that rivals the released version). Fans will have a lot of this material in various places, but this collection puts everything together in one slamming package. The first disc is comprised exclusively of sides recorded for Modern between '55 and '57. Among the masterpieces of killer, bed-rocking R&B found here are "W-O-M-A-N," "Hey Henry," "Good Rockin' Day," "The Pick-Up," "Tough Lover," and "Be Mine." Disc two, where the treasures really
are, lays out the Kent and Crown material, and contains all the rarities. There are a few duets here where James is joined by Betty & Dupree as on "If It Ain't One Thing," and "We're In Love." The rehearsal of "Be My Lovely Dovey," is raw and wonderful, as is the alternate version of "Crazy Feelin," without backing from a group. The liner essay by Tony Rounce
is both authoritative and accessible, and gives a solid and revealing portrait of James' place in the pantheon and how her star rose. This is, in its way, an historic set because this is the first time all these sides have appeared in one place. Highly recommended.