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Tell Mama: The Complete Muscle Shoals Sessions
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2005
More soul than blues, Etta James' "Tell Mama" originally came out in 1968 as a twelve-track LP. And here it is in its remastered 2001 incarnation, bolstered by no fewer than ten bonus tracks which earns the reissue the subtitle "The Complete Muscle Shoals Sessions".
The sound is terrific, clear and realistic, as is the production by Rick Hall. And those who feel that Etta James' Chess recordings featured too many violins and not enough power need to pick up "Tell Mama" right away!

The original album was top-notch in its own right, featuring the all-time classic soul ballad "I'd Rather Go Blind", excellent covers of Ed Townsend's "I'm Gonna Take What He's Got", Otis Redding's "Security" and Jimmy Hughes' "Don't Lose Your Good Thing", and a couple of driving up-tempo numbers, most notably Don Covay's "Watch Dog" and the magnificent title track.
Etta James never sounded better than during these four 1967-1968 sessions, and the various musicians never set a foot (or a finger) wrong.

There really isn't a single weak track among the twelve songs originally issued. Even practically unknown songs like the swaggering soul stomper "My Mother In Law" and the slow "It Hurts Me So Much", which have never been covered by anyone and don't appear on any of Etta James' compilation albums, are highly enjoyable, and Etta's rendition of "Just A Little Bit" (AKA "I Just Want A Little Bit") is a supremely funky slice of soul-blues.

And the bonus tracks aren't rejects by any means. They include "Almost Persuaded", "Misty", the rocking "You Took It", a very good interpretation of Sonny Bono's "I Got You Babe", and two soulful takes on "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man", a song which has been interpreted by everybody from Aretha Franklin to the Flying Burrito Brothers.
I'm no big Etta James fan, actually, but this album is something special. I completely fell for it the first time I put it on, and to me "Tell Mama" is the best record Etta James has ever made, one of the finest, most cohesive soul and R&B records of the late 60s.
You really ought to give it a listen.
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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2001
I was introduced to Etta James with Tell Mama, which I've always thought was a fantastic song. In 1984, I picked up a French pressing of "Peaches", a double LP of her best Chess material. I can still remember listening to that album for the first time. I was absolutely blown away! Not just with her voice, but with the quality of the songs, arrangements and sound. It became one of my most treasured albums, and there it stayed until I picked up the original Tell Mama CD in '90. Though it was in mono (I was at that time a snooty stereo guy), I thoroughly loved it. I was aware of how great Rick Hall, Fame and the whole Muscle Shoals scene was; how they turned out so many great records.
This is an essential reissue, as it includes all of the songs that Etta cut there. The unreleased stuff is nearly as good as the original album. I now find out that most of the original masters were mono only, for some reason. At least we get the stereo masters that exist. It is evident from the pictures and the quotes included in this package that there was a ton of mutual respect between the Muscle Shoals folks and Etta, and it shows in the music. As it turned out, these sessions gave Etta her last big hit, unfortunately. But it certainly wasn't the end of her producing great music; her ongoing career is a testament to that.
I've grown to love almost everything that Etta did for Chess, particularly the earlier stuff, when crossover was the primary aim. Her treatment of standards and ballads was exquisite. But when she came to Alabama, it was to cut Southern-fried soul, and she nailed it!
An essential Etta record, an essential soul record, an essential '60s record. 'Nuff said.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
The ever-vivacious Etta James is one of R&B's true greats, an artist whose work will always stand the test of time and this album, originally released in 1968, is one of her best-known and most powerful. More dynamic than expressive, James was a gal who clearly knew how to rock, capable of the same sort of expansiveness as Jimmy Rushing or even jump blues shouters such as Wynonie Harris, but also with a touch of the sleekness seen in Dinah Washington and Ella Fitzgerald. The "Tell Mama" album is a flawless, timeless crowd pleaser, packed with upbeat, compact material, a tailormade showcase for James' mousy snarl. Backed by the best of the Muscle Shoals crew, this is music that can't easily be faulted; with ten bonus tracks added on for good measure, this CD edition is pretty hard to resist.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Here was Etta James in 1968 just at the same time Aretha Franklin was electrifying the music world with famed albums such as I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You she decided that it was an important time to change up her music to put her own spin on what was happening in the music world at that time. So she made one of the biggest decisions of her early career-she left the world of Chess style urban blues behind and elected to record this album with Jerry Wexler and many of the same musicians and writers at Muscle Shoals who'd given Aretha such a huge leg up as "the queen of soul",a title which generally Etta had once carried. But it wasn't just about competition by any means. Her music had been heading in this general direction for everal years so it was therefore only fitting that everything on both fronts would be so well timed.

The title track of this album is a great proto funk southern soul hit that I've heard on the radio for many years,loved and was honored to have in my collection. If this album had only contained this one song as it's single quality cut I'd still enjoy having it for that alone.Luckily that's not the case. While nothing here quite approches the same level of quality as the hit,as other reviews pointed out this album has no bad songs on it "Watch Dog","The Same Rope","Security" and the witty "My Mother In Law" all have that same stomping uptempo flavor to them while "I'd Rather Go Blind","The Love Of My Man","Steal Away" and "Just A Little Bit" offer some organ heavy Southern gospel/soul style balladry far removed from the bluesier style Etta had in Chicago.

On the bonus tracks things get even spicier,especially since there are in fact a whole albums worth of them here. One hightlite,quite appropriately is her version of "Do Right Woman,Do Right Man" that had spun gold for Aretha and,interestingly enough Etta approches the song vocally more from the point of view of a soul crooner than a soul shouter-giving it a different flavor than the original. "I Got You Babe" is another excellent interpretive number,taking Sonny & Cher's folky pop original and turning it into uptempo southern soul,even to the point of reharmonizing the melody. Her previously unreleased version of "Misty" showcases a somewhat caberet style soul and "Fire"...well is yet more excellent uptempo soul. So on this album you get just about everything that Etta James had to offer for the 60's soul era. Etta was an artist who had a number of different musical periods and she was at this point soon to enter a new one. But that's another story.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2001
Not too long ago and still today many artists of Miss James caliber would '' sell out '' to popular music for one sure hit.That is everyone but Etta, these recordings take you back to the true nitty gritty of up tempo blackeyed soul , to the southern sounds of down home soul. These are not only a great compilation of Etta's best work but a testament of the greatest vocalist to live!If any one deservers to be honored on VHI DIVAS LIVE,it would only be fitting to honor the real ''queen of soul''. Sorry no disrepect to Aretha but the voice tells the story!This is one of the best remastered recordings I have heard in a long time, the other is ''LADY IN SATIN''!If I was marooned on a desert island this is all you would need, it covers practically everything, even a remake of the old Cher hit ''I got you babe'',but Etta's interpertation makes a trifling song into a listenable and satisfying song. Etta's got the power and the loyalty to do what she wants, and with a voice like hers she can! You must see her performing live in concert, she will blow you away!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2005
In addition to the 12 re-mastered original tracks, there are 10 more (including 2 versions of "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man"). There are some good songs here that are not included on either "Her Best" or "The Chess Box", including "Watch Dog", "My Mother In Law", "It Hurts Me So Much", "I've Gone Too Far", and her funked-out Soulful rendition of "I Got You Babe". This is a must-have for Etta fans.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2009
Blues from someone who was there. She was not popularly a target of adulation, but she should have been. If you are not familiar with 50's and 60's blues-soul-rock, do yourself a favor and gain an introduction to Madam James,a voice, a heart, a legend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 2014
Etta James has always been one of my favourite singers. I never crowned 'Retha Franklin the queen of soul, I regarded Etta the Queen of all.
This album opens up with the Clarence Carter's Tell Daddy, But the title was changed to Tell Mama, the horn section dives in over the top and the base and drums drive everything from the bottom and Etta just kills it with her vocals. The next song I Would Rather go Blind, is another killer of a song as is the rest of the album.The album was recored at the legendary FAME studio with the legendaty Swampers. David Hood's bass playing is just stunning, as he kills it on every song. It's hard to believe that this album is 46 years old and it stands the test of time as it is still superior to anything I have listened to.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2009
Watching the movie "Cadillac Records" inspired me to listen to Etta James "At Last," and "I'd rather die." What a great CD, and what a talented voice, which will go under your skin if you you allow it :-) For all the Blues Lovers out there, it is worth having it in your collection.
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It's arguable that all eleven of the 2001 American Reissues listed below in Universal's fabulous "Blues Classics: Remastered & Revisited" CD Series are must-buy winners – guaranteed to put a pep in your step, a glint in your eye and an animated wanton in the trouser area (if I may be so rude on a wet Monday morning). And after spending 57 minutes in the company of their lone Etta James entry "Tell Mama..." - you can’t help feeling that this CD compilation is just a little bit more special than all the others. Here is a proper little sweetheart of a release available to all good people for notta-lotta wonga. Here are the shimmy-shimmy details...

US released May 2001 – "Tell Mama: The Complete Muscle Shoals Recordings" by ETTA JAMES on Universal/MCA/Chess 088 112 518-2 (Barcode 008811251826) is a 22-track CD compilation and plays out as follows (57:09 minutes):

1. Tell Mama
2. I'd Rather Go Blind
3. Watch Dog
4. The Love Of My Mind
5. I'm Gonna Take What He's Got
6. The Same Rope
7. Security
8. Steal Away
9. My Mother In Law
10. Don't Lose Your Good Thing
11. It Hurts Me So Much
12. Just A Little Bit
Tracks 1 to 12 are the LP "Tell Mama" – released January 1968 in the USA on Cadet LP 802 (Mono) and Cadet LPS 802 (Stereo). Although the "Tell Mama" album was released in supposed 'Stereo' – Universal's tape research shows that true stereo mixes for Tracks 2, 3, 4, 5 and 10 were never made - fake Stereo was used on the issued LP - so they've been replaced here with the true Mono mixes. Bearing that in mind - Tracks 1, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11 and 12 are in STEREO – Tracks 2, 3, 4, 5 and 10 are in MONO.

BONUS TRACKS (all in Mono, only Mono Masters exist):
13. Do Right Woman, Do Right Man (recorded 30 Nov 1967)
14. You Took It (recorded 2 Aug 1968)
15. I Worship The Ground You Walk On (1968 USA 7" single on Cadet 5606, B-side of "I Got You Babe")
16. I Got You Babe (1968 USA 7" single on Cadet 5606, A)
17. You Got It (recorded August 1968)
18. I've Gone Too Far (recorded August 1968 – Previously Unreleased)
19. Misty (recorded August 1968 – Previously Unreleased)
20. Almost Persuaded (1969 USA 7” single on Cadet 5630, A)
21. Fire (1968 USA 7" single on Cadet 5620, B-side of "You Got It")
22. Do Right Woman, Do Right Man (Alternate) (recorded 30 Nov 1967 – Previously Unreleased)

This CD will allow fans to sequence the A&B-sides of four US 7" singles using the following tracks:
1. Tell Mama [1] b/w I'd Rather Go Blind [2] (Nov 1967, Cadet 5578)
2. Security [7] b/w I'm Gonna Take What He's Got [5] (March 1968, Cadet 5594)
3. I Got You Babe [16] b/w I Worship The Ground You Walk On [15] (June 1968, Cadet 5606)
4. Almost Persuaded [20] b/w Steal Away [8] (Jan 1969, Cadet 5630)

The four-way foldout inlay has new liner notes by LEE HILDEBRAND (it also reproduces the original Morry Roth LP liner notes) as well as track-by-track annotation. There are colour photos of Etta in the Studio with the seated horn section of James Mitchell, Charles Chalmers and Floyd Newman - another with the rest of the band – Calvin Scott, Billy Foster, Jimmy Ray Johnson and Albert Lowe, Jr. – and a final shot of an smiling Gene "Bowlegs" Miller with Producer and owner of Fames Studios – Rick Hall. It’s nicely done if not a tiny bit slight – but that cannot be said of the fabulous ERICK LABSON remasters. Labson has handled as many as 1000 remasters overt the decades including the vast majority of the huge Chess Records catalogue as well as prestigious Rock catalogues like Steppenwolf, Three Dog Night, Neil Diamond, Wishbone Ash and The Who (to name but a few). But his work here is gorgeous – especially on those stunning Stereo cuts.

The LP is very much a product of the 60ts R&B times – fast-slow, fast-slow and so on. A fast belter opens proceedings with the Stereo take of "Tell Mama" putting hairs on your chest – which is followed by the magnificent ache of "I'd Rather Go Blind" (Christine McVie would almost make the song her own with Chicken Shack on Blue Horizon who covered it that year). Etta doesn't appreciate her jealous lover in "Watch Dog" as she tells us "...I don't want no man of mine everywhere I go...he's right behind...he's like the FBI!” You on the other hand will love this groovy shimmy and shake dancer penned by Don Covay. Time for Ed Townshend's "The Love Of My Man" where Etta tells us he's the greatest chap in the whole wide world. Shortly after she’s telling us in uncomfortable sucker-mode that even though 'he beat on me and he cheat on me' her man's ok really because in private he can be so sweet (what a guy).

The chipper Lloyd Webster/Leonard Caston number "The Same Rope" advises that if Etta's man leaves he maybe using that rope to hang himself when he realises what he's done (stunning audio on this especially in the rhythm section). She does a great job with Otis Redding's "Security" and the sexy arrangement she gives Jimmy Hughes' "Steal Away" is refreshing while still retaining the brilliance of that wicked original. Etta has a family itch she needs to scratch in the cautionary "My Mother In Law" where she tells us that she's "...Sick and tired of your mother...always sticking her nose in my business...seems like I married her...instead of you..." (oh dear). And on it goes to her slinky cover of Rosco Gordon's "Just A Little Bit" - a wicked hip-wiggler bound to put your arteritis out to pasture...

The 10 bonus tracks offer three Previously Unreleased (18, 19 and 22) while her single-only cover of Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe" is Previously Unreleased on album. Unfortunately it's easy to hear why her cover of "Misty" was canned – its jazzy arrangement feels dated, out of place and just doesn’t suit her. Better is the boogie of "You Took It", the Don Covay dancer "You Got It" and the chugging Clarence Carter funk of Willie Dixon's "Fire".

A wicked CD Reissue currently retailing at just over three quid from certain sellers. "I'm on fire! I'm hot!" Etta assures us on the funky R&B winner "Fire"...and I think she’s right...

PS: Titles in the "Blues Classics - Remastered & Revisited" CD Series are (all are US releases):
(1 and 2 are SUHA GUR remasters, 3 to 11 are ERICK LABSON - I've reviewed most)

1. Bad News Is Coming - LUTHER ALLISON
(1972 Gordy LP, 2001 CD Remaster + Four Previously Unreleased Bonus Tracks) - Universal 440 013 407-2 (Barcode 044001340727)

2. Luther’s Blues - LUTHER ALLISON
(1974 USA 9-track LP with 3 Previously Unreleased bonuses, 70:28 minutes)
Universal 440 013 409-2 (Barcode 044001340925)

3. Two Steps From The Blues - BOBBY BLAND
(1961 USA 12-track LP on Duke with 2 bonuses, 35:12 minutes)
MCA 088 112 516-2 (Barcode 008811251628)

4. The Real Folk Blues/More Real Folk Blues - JOHN LEE HOOKER
(October 1966 and September 1991 LPs on Chess, 2LPs on 1CD, 79:44 minutes)
MCA/Chess 088 112 821-2 (Barcode 008811282127)

5. The Real Folk Blues/More Real Folk Blues - HOWLIN' WOLF
(January 1966 on Chess and January 1967 on Chess, 2LPs on 1CD, 66:45 minutes)
MCA/Chess 088 112 820-2 (Barcode 008811282028)

6. Tell Mama: The Complete Muscle Shoals Sessions - ETTA JAMES
(January 1968 US 12-Track LP on Cadet - 13-22 being bonuses, 57:11 minutes)
MCA/Chess 088 112 518-2 (Barcode 008811251826)

7. Live At San Quentin - B.B. KING
(1990 13-Track Compilation on MCA, no extras, 64:09 minutes)
MCA America 088 112 517-2 (Barcode 008811251727)

8. At Newport 1960 - MUDDY WATERS
(1960 US 9-Track LP on Chess with 10-13 being 4 Mono Studio Tracks from June 1960 as bonus tracks, 44:41 minutes)
MCA/Chess 088 112 515-2 (Barcode 008811251529)

9. Fathers & Sons - MUDDY WATERS (with Paul Butterfield, Otis Spann, Mike Bloomfield, Donald 'Duck' Dunn and Buddy Miles)
(Tracks 1-10 and 15-20 is the August 1969 2LP set on Chess in Full with Tracks 11, 12, 13 being previously unreleased - and 14 previously unreleased in the USA). (77:38 minutes)
MCA/Chess 088 112 648-2 (Barcode 008811264826)

10. The Real Folk Blues/More Real Folk Blues - MUDDY WATERS
MCA/Chess 088 112 822-2 (Barcode 008811282226)

11. The Real Folk Blues/More Real Folk Blues - SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON
(January 1966 and January 1967 LPs on Chess, 2LPs on 1CD, 65:28 minutes)
MCA/Chess 088 112 823-2 (Barcode 008811282325)
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