Customer Reviews: Her Best - The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars146
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on October 15, 2000
I discovered Etta James when I was a teenaged black girl growing up in Berkeley, California. I was too young for Muddy Waters, and Billie Holiday. Before I was born,my parents fled segregated New Orleans for the wartime jobs of Oakland and San Francisco naval bases. I heard blues in the background of my life. From my aunt's honky-tonk piano playing to the sexual innuendo of Big Mama Thorton. I took it all in. This album captures every single bit of the innuendo of my life, either real or imagined.
I love the songs everyone loves, At Last, A Sunday Kind of Love, Fool That am I, Trust in Me, All I Could Do is Cry. These songs speak truth to a woman's powerlessness. What I noticed after playing this album over, and over, and over is that she sounds like a horn, a sassy, jazzy blues horn. When she goes wanh, wanh, wanh, in Jimmy Reed's, Baby, What you Want Me to Do, she is the perfect vocal instrument. Anyone who wants to meet Etta, must have this cd. I have the two cd box set and other "essential" cds, but this is simply THE BEST!
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on September 9, 2004
For someone on a budget who is interested in the music of this legendary artist, look no further than this single disc album. The sound and track selection here are excellent. Anyone interested in the blues needs to have at least one Etta James album in their collection and you can't go wrong here. For those of you have a few extra dollars around, I strongly suggest 2 disc set "The Essential Etta James" on the MCA/Chess label. "The Essential" boasts 44 tracks an is more comprehensive than this release, but also twice the price.
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on June 9, 2000
Though I'm an admitted jazz-and-blues fan, it doesn't take a hard-core fan to appreciate the beauty and richnesss of Etta James. "At Last" remains her most well-known song for good reason: it's an eloquent, evocative, soulful masterpiece. Her voice is absolutely entrancing here and on the admittedly saccharine "A Sunday Kind of Love". Etta's voice ranges from bluesy sass in "Next Door to the Blues" to gospel power in "Something's Got a Hold on Me" to the smooth and smoldering notes of "Don't Cry Baby".
But while her voice is easy to like, this is a blues album. It's great for those who like the blues but aren't hard-core fans of the genre. The album is easy to listen to and has several recognizable songs. But fans of James won't be disappointed either. With 20 songs of pure Etta, even they should get their fill. For those who aren't well-acquainted with her, Etta's voice is a rough mixture of Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin. And when she's wailing the blues, you can feel her raw strength and conviction. This album really is Etta at her best.
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on October 16, 1999
This re-master of some of Ms. James' best works is a memorable, must-have for any fan. Her soaring vocals and intricate, symphonic arrangements produce an angelic combination. WARNING: The decision to shorten many cuts on this CD by prematurely fading out of song selections, however, is a travesty akin to "editing" a great work of fiction -- and greatly diminishes the listener's enjoyment. For shame!
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on February 20, 2001
One day I decided to visit the mega HMV store in downtown Toronto in search of Blues and Jazz CDs, which is a genre I have been increasingly becoming a fan of. I knew the song "At Last" (like many people) as it is indeed a Classic and has been featured in many movies. I liked it enough to look for Etta James in the Blues section and I am so glad the first Jamesetta CD I bought was this one!
You know there are some CDs that grow on you and there are some you love from the get go. This Greatest Hits package duly falls in the latter category. What a wonderful collection of soulful, somber, pop-rock, r&b, jazzy and uptempo songs! It would be difficult for me to rank them as I love almost each and everyone of the tracks. I bought this album last summer and it still sounds so invigorating and fulfilling even after playing it for God knows how many times!
For someone who was not born until the mid seventies and who did not become very familiar with western music until the early nineties (except eighties music that I grew up listening to in guess where?... Bangladesh!), this CD made me take a renewed interest in music that was created back in the 60's whether it be the Beatles or Marvin Gaye. Too bad that artists like Ms. James never got ALL the accolades or commercial success they actually deserve.
Almost every time I listen to her music and THAT voice I can't help but cry. I have never been moved so much my someone's singing that comes from so deep within one's soul.
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on May 5, 2001
There are numerous repackagings of Etta James' Chess recordings and they all have something to recommend them. As an intro to this great singer's work, however, this collection is hard to beat. All her classics, from the elegant "At Last" to the soulfully rocking "Tell Mama" are included here. No doubt some listeners will prefer one side of her musical personality to another, but her versatility is genuine, and it's impossible to imagine her limiting herself to just one genre. A live version of Jimmy Reed's "Baby, What You Want Me To Do" prefigures her more recent forays into rootsier blues. And "All the Way Down," produced by Gabriel Mekler, has all the funk of a Sly & the Family Stone track. Etta can and does do it all. The only problem with this collection--as one other reviewer has pointed out--is the fact that too many tracks come to an abrupt ending. (You can't even really call them fade-outs: they just stop.) Still it's wonderful to have so much great Etta on one disk, that's something of a quibble. Very good, informative liner notes by Peter Grendysa.
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on September 6, 2002
There's a wonderful story of "All I Could Do Was Cry" from an ancient book on musicians of the 50's and early 60's: paraphrasing Ms. Etta "That old Leonard Chess didn't know nothing about music. He'd see me patting my foot to a tune and holler 'That's it. That's the hit.' Sometimes I'd pat my foot to a piece of junk just to mess with him. He never caught on."
The story I won a bet with was how Leonard used to get into the audio booth at the Chess studio WITH Etta (tight squeeze, no doubt), would pinch, poke, tickle her at places in the song where he thought she ought to "squall." (If you don't know what "squall" is ...) With that background, "All I Could Do" makes much more musical sense. When Etta sings "and now, the wedding is over, rice ... RICE has been tossed over their heads ..." You can bet the farm that Leonard has just goosed Etta. "I'd come out of a session black and blue from all the hitting and pinching he'd done on me."
If you are a fan of Etta, you should also meet Big Maybelle, for my two cents the greatest female singer ever! Give some of her "torch songs" a listen, I've always thought of Etta as a latter-day Big Maybelle.
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on January 20, 2000
This collection embraces all of Etta's wonderful range. All of my favorites are on this CD including my all time favorite song, "At Last" I'm a fairly young fan, she was singing decades before I was born, but her influence on modern R&B is obvious. I would recommend this collection to any R & B lover, no matter what their age.
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on November 6, 1999
From At Last to Tell Mama, She has shown that she can go toe to toe with the best from the softest to the hardest. From previous comments from another reviewer, She was not a drag queen. She was born as Jamesetta Hawkins in California to mixed parents. Not in Georgia as was stated.
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on November 18, 2005
Etta James is one of a kind. In my opinion she is one of the greatest singers ever. Her voice is so expressive and she can use it in so many ways. This CD has it all: ballads, blues, R&B, a live track, and Etta backed by strings in a jazz setting. I bought this after seeing Etta sing on television and this disc served as a great introduction to her music. Just a warning though: if you buy this it won't be the last disc of hers that you buy. My sister used "At Last" as the first dance with her husband at their wedding (as many couples do) and it was amazing how many people young and old wanted to know who that great singer was in the song. It's a testament to her talent and the ability she has to reach people with her voice, which is the mark of a great vocalist.
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