“Etta Is Betta Than Evvah!” originally released in 1976, now released on CD by reputable reissue label Ace Records from UK in 2013, was the final album of Etta James’ tumultuous 16-year tenure at Chess Records. I have compiled a detailed song listing (including album and singles label & number, chart position, debut date, plus personal comments)(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 “ETTA IS BETTA THAN EVVAH!” (Etta James)(Chess ACH-19003)(1976):
01 WOMAN (SHAKE YOUR BOOTY)*a funky rewrite of a song Etta had recorded, as “W-O-M-A-N”, for Modern in 195 and again for Chess in 1971.
02 A LOVE VIBRATION*original by Ann Peebles.
03 ONLY A FOOL (Chess CH-2148)(b-side, February 1974)*was also previously released in album “Etta James” (Chess CH-50042)(BB200 154/1973).
04 LITTLE BIT OF LOVE
05 GROOVE ME*featured in Etta’s live set, and redone by Etta in her farewell album “The Dreamer” in 2011.
06 JUMP INTO LOVE (Chess ACH-31001)(a-side)(BB R&B 92/1976)(July 1976)*rare gem; CD debut.
07 LEAVE YOUR HAT ON (Chess CH-2148)(a-side)(BB R&B 76/1974)(February 1974)*previously released in album “Etta James” (Chess CH-50042)(BB200 154/1973)
08 I’VE BEEN A FOOL (Chess ACH-31001)(b-side, July 1976)
09 BLINDED BY LOVE*written by Allen Toussaint, first recorded by Johnny Winter.
10 AIN’T NO PITY IN THE NAKED CITY*minor hit for singer/actress Pat Lundy.
11 YOU’VE LOST THAT LOVIN’ FEELIN’*recorded in 1973; never released until “The Chess Box” (2000)
12 DOWN SO LOW*from album “Etta James” (Chess CH-50042)(BB200 154/1973)
13 ALL THE WAY DOWN (Chess CH-2144)(a-side)(BB Pop 101/1973; BB R&B 29/1973; CB Pop 70/1973)(September 1973)
14 GOD’S SONG (THAT’S WHY I LOVE MANKIND)*from album “Etta James” (Chess CH-50042)(BB200 154/1973)
15 POWER PLAY*from album “Come A Little Closer”; written by John Kay of Steppenwolf; Etta displays some of the angry emotion she was feeling at the time.
16 COME A LITTLE BIT CLOSER*from album “Come A Little Closer”
17 FEELING UNEASY (Chess CH-2153)(b-side, July 1974)*from album “Come A Little Closer”; this wordless song was cut when she was ill from withdrawal, barely able to speak, and the one she never finished. In her autobiography, she stated that even when she hit emotional bottom, her singing did not seem to suffer. If anything, she was belting it out like her was on the line.
18 ST. LOUIS BLUES*from album “Come A Little Closer”; has the same choral background arrangement similar to that used by Bessie Smith four decades earlier in the movie of the same name; this song was nominated for 1974 Grammy for “Best R&B Vocal Performance”, won by Aretha Franklin for her stunning “Ain’t Nothin’ Like the Real Thing”
19 LET’S BURN DOWN THE CORNFIELD*from album “Come A Little Closer”; Etta’s favourite song in that album; she considered Randy Newman’s view of sin and salvation both funny and true.
20 LOVIN’ ARMS (Chess CH-2171)(uncharted a-side, April 1975)
1 By 1976, Chess Records had been purchased by All Platinum. This album was her final one for Chess Records, mostly produced and arranged by the former Motown baritone sax hero Mike Perry, at the All Platinum Recording Studio in New Jersey, backed by the All Platinum house band, otherwise known as funk/disco hitmakers the Rimshots. All the songs are funky. This is the set where you will find the studio version of her concert’s favourite “Groove Me.” This current set is making its CD debut.
2 There are 10 additional bonus tracks.
3 The sound is very well remastered.
4 There is also a first class 12-page booklet, with an informative and a very moving essay by her long-time make-up artist, Rudy Calvo. But best of all are 7 colourful singles labels and 2 album labels, plus album covers. Labels and numbers are included. As far as booklet is concerned, Ace Records has the best booklet, even better than Real Gone Music (US). Jasmine Records and Sepia Records, are you listening?
1 The bonus tracks are not as attractive as those in “Queen of Soul” CD. My only complaint is that 4 out of 10 songs were from an earlier album “Come A Little Closer” and 3 were from album “Etta James.”
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. “Etta Is Betta Than Evvah!” is her 16th album release, following “Come A Little Closer.” The entire album, with great funky sound and many hit singles and rare gems, is totally enjoyable, and will be treasured. Naturally this set is highly recommended.