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 us good Limey folks 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
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  b/w I'd Rather Go Blind  (Nov 1967, Cadet 5578)
2. Security  b/w I'm Gonna Take What He's Got  (March 1968, Cadet 5594)
3. I Got You Babe  b/w I Worship The Ground You Walk On  (June 1968, Cadet 5606)
4. Almost Persuaded  b/w Steal Away  (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)
“Tell Mama” by Etta James was a very popular charted album, originally released on Cadet label in 1968. It was released by MCA Records on CD in 1987, and now re-released in 2001, completely remastered, plus 10 bonus tracks. I have compiled a detailed song listing (BB200=Billboard Album Chart; BB Pop=Billboard Hot 100; BB R&B=Billboard Rhythm & Blues Chart; CB Pop=Cash Box Singles Chart; RW Pop=Record World Singles Chart):
LP “TELL MAMA” (Etta James)(Cadet LPS-802)(BB200 82/1968:
01 TELL MAMA (Cadet 5578)(a-side)(BB Pop 23/1967; BB R&B 10/1967; CB Pop 27/1967; RW Pop 37/1967)(October 1967)
02 I’D RTHER GO BLIND (Cadet 5578)(b-side, October 1967)
03 WATCH DOG
04 THE LOVE OF MY MAN (Chess CH-2100)(b-side, December 1970)
05 I’M GONNA TAKE WHAT HE’S GOT (Cadet 5594)(b-side, February 1968)
06 THE SAME ROPE
07 SECURITY (Cadet 5594)(a-side)(BB Pop 35/1968; BB R&B 11/1968; CB Pop 37/1968; RW Pop 32/1968)(February 1968)
08 STEAL AWAY (Cadet 5630)(b-side, December 1968)*rare gem; CD debut.
09 MY MOTHER-IN-LAW
10 DON’T LOSE YOUR GOOD THING
11 IT HURTS ME SO MUCH
12 JUST A LITTLE BIT
13 DO RIGHT WOMAN, DO RIGHT MAN
14 YOU TOOK IT
15 I WORSHIP THE GROUND YOU WALKED ON (single version)(Cadet 5606)(b-side, May 1968)
16 I GOT YOU BABE (Cadet 5606)(a-side)(BB Pop 69/1968; BB R&B 32/1968; CB Pop 52/1968; RW Pop 51/1968)(May 1968)
17 YOU GOT IT (single version)(Cadet 5620)(a-side)(BB Pop 113/1968)(September 1968)
18 I’VE GONE TOO FAR (2001 Compilation Version)
20 ALMOST PERSUADED (single version)(Cadet 5630)(a-side)(BB Pop 79/1969; BB R&B 32/1969; CB Pop 79/1969; RW Pop 95/1969)(December 1968)
21 FIRE (Cadet 5620)(b-side, September 1968)
22 DO RIGHT WOMAN, DO RIGHT MAN (alternate version)
1 This is the definitive version of “Tell Mama.” The previously released version in 1987 contained the bare-bone album with poorly remastered sound. Here, we have 10 bonus tracks with a few single versions, plus other tracks completing her Muscle Shoals Sessions from 1967-1968.
2 The sound is well remastered.
Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkins on January 25, 1938 in Los Angeles, California. She was nicknamed “Miss Peaches.” She has a long illustrious career. Her singing style spanned a variety of music genres including blues, R&B, soul, rock and roll, jazz and gospel. She has frequent bouts of heroin addiction, but finally cured in the late 1970s. In 1996, her album “Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday” won Best Jazz Vocal Performance Grammy. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2008. She died of leukemia on January 20, 2012 (age 74). Her mighty, moving voice is sorely missed.
After collecting all her 123 songs (as singles, except one song “Bring It on Home to Me” her duet with Tony Orlando), I am in the process of collecting all her domestic albums. “Tell Mama” is her 11th album release, following “Call My Name” in 1966. This entire album is a monster of a jam that perfectly suits Etta's powerful, gritty pipes, with bumping bass, in-the-pocket drums, chankin' guitar and incisive horns, coupled with James' fierce belting. The album, with 10 bonus tracks plus many hit singles and rare gems and great sound, is totally enjoyable, and will be treasured. Naturally this set is highly recommended. Please make sure you buy this version “Tell Mama: The Complete Muscle Shoals Sessions,” and not the bare-bone CD “Tell Mama” with poor sound.