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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
The Very Best Of Etta James: The Chess Singles
Format: Audio CD|Change
Price:£5.74+ £1.26 shipping

on 18 July 2017
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on 3 April 2017
Excellent condition
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VINE VOICEon 11 May 2008
Etta James was with Chess for over fifteen years (appearing initially on their subsidiary labels Argo and Cadet) between 1960 and 1976, adapting and rolling with the times, trying out new ideas, never selling out, and making a heap of great blues and soul records. If squeezing fifteen years of material onto just three discs seems a tall order, imagine the absurdity of trying to compile The Best Of Etta James, which is a single CD of her Chess years. This box set represents far better value and is fully recommended, with just a couple of small caveats.

Firstly, there are too many mono mixes, even from the nineteen-seventies when stereo versions were prepared as a matter of course and are available elsewhere, and secondly, there is too little detailed documentation.

Finally, whilst I have no quarrel at all with the title, The Very Best Of Etta James, the subtitle The Chess Singles is just misleading. Some A-sides are absent, seven B-sides are included (just as well, as these include All I Could Do Was Cry, I Just Want To Make Love To You and I'd Rather Go Blind) and contrarily there are several album tracks and even a couple of outtakes that weren't released at the time at all. These include her brilliant version of Do Right Woman, Do Right Man recorded at Muscle Shoals and inexplicably left in the can until 1993.

This collection would be well complemented by Miss Etta James - The Complete Kent And Modern Recordings, the period before she signed to Chess. It's worth remembering that when these days artists are expected to be at their peak after one single, singers like Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone and Etta James had been learning their craft for several years before becoming established, and Etta James' first single appeared in 1955.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 February 2016

“The Very Best of Etta James: The Chess Singles”, released by budget label Spectrum Music from UK in 2005, is a 3 CD set with 53 songs. I have compiled a detailed song listing (including singles label & number, chart position, debut date, plus personal comments)(BB Pop=Billboard Hot 100; BB R&B=Billboard Rhythm & Blues; CB Pop=Cash Box Singles Chart; RW Pop=Record World Singles Chart):

01 ALL I COULD DO WAS CRY (Argo 5359)(a-side)(BB Pop 33/1960; BB R&B 2(1)/1960; CB Pop 23/1960; RW Pop 30/1960)(March 1960)*b-side “Boy of My Dreams” not included here.
02 IF I CAN'T HAVE YOU (Etta James & Harvey Fuqua)(Chess 1760)(a-side)(BB Pop 52/1960; BB R&B 6/1960; CB Pop 32/1960; RW Pop 41/1960)(July 1960)*b-side “My Heart Cries” not included here.
03 MY DEAREST DARLING (Argo 5368)(a-side)(BB Pop 34/1960; BB R&B 5/1960; CB Pop 25/1960; RW Pop 32/1960)(August 1960)*b-side “Tough Mary” not included here.
04 SPOONFUL (Etta James & Harvey Fuqua)(Chess 1771)(a-side)(BB Pop 78/1960; BB R&B 12/1960; CB Pop 82/1960; RW Pop 76/1960)(November 1960)*b-side “It’s A Crying Shame” not included here.
05 AT LAST (Argo 5380)(a-side)(BB Pop 47/1961; BB R&B 2(1)/1961; CB Pop 30/1961; RW Pop 30/1961)(December 1960)*the definitive edition of this song.
06 I JUST WANT TO MAKE LOVE TO YOU (Argo 5380)(b-side, December 1960)*a-side “At Last”; also re-released in UK in 1996: (Chess MCSTD 48003)(UK a-side)(UK 5/1996)(February 1996); her last charted single.
07 TRUST IN ME (Argo 5385)(a-side)(BB Pop 30/1961; BB R&B 4/1961; CB Pop 25/1961; RW Pop 24/1961)(March 1961)*b-side “Anything To Say You’re Mine” not included here.
08 FOOL THAT I AM (Argo 5390)(a-side)(BB Pop 50/1951; BB R&B 14/1951; CB Pop 51/1961; RW Pop 54/1961)(May 1961)*b-side “Dream” not included here.
09 DON'T CRY, BABY (Argo 5393)(a-side)(BB Pop 39/1961; BB R&B 6/1961; CB Pop 57/1961; RW Pop 80/1961)(July 1961)*b-side “A Sunday Kind of Love”
10 A SUNDAY KIND OF LOVE (Argo 5393)(b-side, July 1961)(CB Pop 57/1961; RW Pop 89/1961)*double sided hit.
11 SOMETHING’S GOT A HOLD ON ME (Argo 5409)(a-side)(BB Pop 37/1962; BB R&B 4/1962; CB Pop 20/1962; RW Pop 25/1962)(January 1962)*b-side “(Waiting For) Charlie (To Come Home)”
12 (WAITING FOR) CHARLIE (TO COME HOME)(Argo 5409)(b-side, January 1962)(RW Pop 80/1962)*double sided hit.
13 STOP THE WEDDING (Argo 5418)(a-side)(BB Pop 34/1962; BB R&B 6/1962; CB Pop 22/1962; RW Pop 29/1962)(July 1962)*b-side “Street of Tears” not included here.
14 NEXT DOOR TO THE BLUES (Argo 5424)(a-side)(BB Pop 71/1962; BB R&B 13/1962; CB Pop 67/1962; RW Pop 63/1962)(September 1962)*b-side “Fools Rush In” not included here.
15 WOULD IT MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE TO YOU (Argo 5430)(a-side)(BB Pop 64/1963; CB Pop 68/1963; RW Pop 70/1963)(December 1962)*b-side “How Do You Speak To An Angel” not included here.
16 IN MY DIARY*from album “The Second Time Around” (Argo LP-4011)(1961)
17 STORMY WEATHER (Chess MCSTD 48003)(UK b-side, February 1996)*a-side “I Just Want To Make Love To You” (Chess MCSTD 48003)(UK a-side)(UK 5/1996)(February 1996); her last charted single; from album “At Last” (Argo LP-4003)(1960)
18 THESE FOOLISH THINGS*from album “Etta James Sings For Lovers” (Argo LP-4018)(1962)

01 PUSHOVER (Argo 5437)(a-side)(BB Pop 25/1963; BB R&B 7/1963; CB Pop 24/1963; RW Pop 24/1963)(March 1963)*b-side “I Can’t Hold It In Anymore” not included here.
02 PAY BACK (Argo 5445)(a-side)(BB Pop 78/1963; CB Pop 91/1963; RW Pop 75/1963)(July 1963)*b-side “Be Honest With Me” not included here.
03 TWO SIDES (TO EVERY STORY)(Argo 5452)(a-side)(BB Pop 63/1963; BB AC 16/1963; CB Pop 90/1963; RW Pop 71/1963)(September 1963)*b-side “I Worry Bout You” not included here.
04 BABY WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO (Argo 5459)(a-side)(BB Pop 82/1964; BB R&B 35/1964; CB Pop 101/1964; RW Pop 93/1964)(December 1963)*b-side “What’d I Say” not included here.
05 LOVING YOU MORE EVERY DAY (Argo 5465)(a-side)(BB Pop 65/1964; BB R&B 7/1963; CB Pop 84/1963; RW Pop 85/1963)(March 1964)*b-side “Look Who’s Blue” not included here.
06 BREAKING POINT (Argo 5477)(a-side)(RW Pop 143/1964)(June 1964)*b-side “That Man Belongs Back Here With Me” not included here.
07 BOBBY IS HIS NAME (Argo 5485)(b-side, December 1964)*a-side “Mellow Fellow” not included here; strange omission.
08 DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR (with Sugar Pie DeSanto)(Cadet 5519)(a-side)(BB Pop 96/1965; CB Pop 94/1965)(December 1965)*b-side “Somewhere Down The Line” not included here.
09 ONLY TIME WILL TELL (Cadet 5526)(uncharted a-side, January 1966)*b-side “I’m Sorry for You” not included here.
10 IN THE BASEMENT - PART 1 (with Sugar Pie DeSanto)(Cadet 5539)(a-side)(BB Pop 97/1966; BB R&B 37/1966; CB Pop 93/1966)(July 1966)*b-side “In The Basement – Part 2” not included here.
11 I PREFER YOU (Cadet 5552)(a-side)(BB R&B 42/1967)(December 1966)*b-side “I’m So Glad (I Found Love In You)” not included here.
12 IT MUST BE YOUR LOVE (Cadet 5564)(uncharted a-side, May 1967)*b-side “Don’t Pick Me For Your Fool” not included here.
13 842-3089 CALL MY NAME (Cadet 5568)(uncharted a-side, July 1967)*b-side “Happiness” not included here.
14 I'D RATHER GO BLIND (Cadet 5578)(b-side, October 1967)
15 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)
16 I WISH SOMEONE WOULD CARE*from album “The Queen of Soul” (Argo LP-4040)(1965)
17 DO RIGHT WOMAN, DO RIGHT MAN*from album “The Queen of Soul” (Argo LP-4040)(1965)
18 LIGHT MY FIRE*previously unreleased; MCA (2000)

01 SECURITY (Cadet 5594)(a-side)(BB Pop 35/1968; BB R&B 11/1968; CB Pop 37/1968; RW Pop 32/1968)(February 1968)
02 I'M GONNA TAKE WHAT HE’S GOT (Cadet 5594)(b-side, February 1968)
03 I WORSHIP THE GROUND YOU WALK ON (Cadet 5606)(b-side, May 1968)
04 YOU GOT IT (Cadet 5620)(a-side)(BB Pop 113/1968)(September 1968)*b-side “Fire” not included here.
05 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)
06 ALMOST PERSUADED (Cadet 5630)(a-side)(BB Pop 79/1969; BB R&B 32/1969; CB Pop 79/1969; RW Pop 95/1969)(December 1968)*b-side “Steal Away” not included here.
07 MISS PITIFUL (Cadet 5655)(a-side)(CB Pop 131/1969)(September 1969)*b-side “Bobby Is His Name”, repeat release, disc 2, track 7.
08 TIGHTEN UP YOUR OWN THING (Cadet 5664)(a-side)(CB Pop 119/1970)(January 1970)*b-side “What Fools We Mortals Be”; repeated release; not included here.
09 LOSERS WEEPERS PART 1 (Cadet 5676)(a-side)(BB Pop 94/1970; BB R&B 26/1970; CB Pop 76/1970; RW Pop 74/1970)(September 1970)*b-side “Weepers” not included here.
10 I FOUND A LOVE (Chess CH-2125)(a-side)(BB Pop 108/1972; BB R&B 31/1972)(April 1972)
11 NOTHING FROM NOTHING LEAVES NOTHING (Chess CH-2100)(uncharted a-side, December 1970)*also b-side to “I Found A Love”
12 W.O.M.A.N (Chess CH-2128)(b-side, May 1972)*a-side “Tell It Like It Is” not included here.
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)*b-side “Lay Back Daddy” not included here.
14 LEAVE YOUR HAT ON (Chess CH-2148)(a-side)(BB R&B 76/1974)(February 1974)*b-side “Only A Fool” not included here.
15 OUT ON THE STREET, AGAIN (Chess CH-2153)(a-side)(BB R&B 84/1974)(July 1974)*b-side “Feeling Uneasy” not included here.
16 LOVIN' ARMS (Chess CH-2171)(uncharted a-side, April 1975)
17 NEVER MY LOVE (1973)


1 This 3 CD set gives a pretty good overview of Etta James’ output from 1960 – 1975. Disc 1: 1960 – 1962; disc 2: 1963 – 1965; disc 3: 1968 – 1975. Most of the songs in discs 2 and 3 are rare gems.
2 The songs are sequenced, more or less, chronologically.
3 The sound is good.
4 There is an informative essay by Dave McAleer, only found in the booklet for disc 1.


1 Time: disc 1: 52 minutes; disc 2: 53 minutes; disc 3: 55 minutes. Surely, Spectrum Music could have filled up the remaining empty space (80 minutes total) with more songs, especially the missing b-sides as noted above.
2 There are no label & number, chart position, debut date and names of source albums. Since Spectrum Music is a budget label, the above is not a surprise.


Although Etta James has 30 charted singles on Billboard R&B chart, I have just finished compiling a Complete Singles Discography, and have found that she actually has 67 singles (charted and uncharted, a and b-sides, from 1954 – 1996)(only 123 songs, not 134 songs because there were 9 repeated releases and two b-sides belonged to other artists). Her singles labels are (1) Groove (1954), (2) Modern (1955 – 1957), (3) Kent (1958 – 1959), (4) Argo (1960 – 1965), (5) Cadet (1965 – 1970), (6) Chess (1970 – 1976), (7) Elektra (1978), (8) Warner Bros. (1978), (9) MCA (1980), (10) Island (1988), (11) Capitol (1989), and (12) Chess (1996). As noted above, her last charted single was an old recording of “I Just Want To Make Love to You” that charted in UK (UK 5/1996).


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.

If you are looking for her early output before 1962, I would recommend “The Anthology” (Not Now Music, 3CDs, 70 songs, 2013, but re-released in 2015). The best overall box set that covers her entire career, extending into 80s & 90s, is “Heart and Soul: A Retrospective (4 CDs, 84 songs, 2011, Universal Music), but rather expensive. This current set, with coverage of her songs from 1960 to 1975, is highly recommended.
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on 21 April 2010
How did Etta James pass me by when I was so into Atlantic Soul in my youth? This music is timeless and Etta has as much soul as Aretha. My personal discovery of the decade.
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VINE VOICEon 2 September 2009
Etta James was one of the first and best singers to combine soul and blues in a style sufficiently commercial to appeal to fans of both genres. This album delivers a huge feast of Etta's work and represents superb value for money. Even if some of the recordings are a bit on the thin side, they evoke memories of the times they were made. Terrific.
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on 18 November 2010
This is a ridiculously good-value collection of Etta's output on Chicago's Chess label. The sound is crystal clear throughout and there's not a dud track to be found. She even manages to turn the somewhat soppy 'I got you babe' into a blistering slice of raunchy soul. You'd be mad to pass up this chance to own the prime of Miss Etta James, one of the hardest-hitting and most soulful of female vocalists. If nothing else, you can listen to 'I'd rather go blind' till the cows come home.
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on 31 August 2009
This is a great overview of early Etta James work.
This defines the Blues,Soul,Rythm & Blues links.
Ageless stuff !
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on 7 June 2017
BIRTHDAY present arrived in time, good value for money, Beyonce version better though.
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on 10 April 2009
Etta James some fantastic tracks.... i was about to download from i tunes then i checked out the price on amazon the money i saved was huge, even if you dont like all the tracks at this price you cant go wrong.
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