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First things first. It has to be said : for a seventy three year old
woman Etta James' voice is in remarkable shape. That it has darkened
and deepened over time is of course inevitable but her singular gift has
not diminished with longevity. Her diction and phrasing remain impeccable
and the gritty, smoky edge which has always defined her vocal delivery
still stirs the blood. What she now lacks in decibels she more than makes
up for in style. Listening to her still makes our hearts beat faster!

Just listen to her marvellous rendition of Bobby Bland's 'Dreamer'
for a masterclass in the blues; without ever resorting to histrionics
or overstatement she makes the expression of every note and word count.
Her take on Guns and Roses "Welcome To The Jungle" redefines the song
as a delicious grunt-and-grooving piece of R&B; the swirling Hammond
organ and crisp snare drum urging her ever-on to nail it to the floor!

I'm a sucker for a slow blues song and Mme James' interpretation of 'Misty
Blue' truly is as good as it gets. An elegant and perfectly poised performance.
So too her heartfelt and soulful singing on the final track 'Let Me Down Easy'
but with 'Cigarettes and Coffee' a lifetime's experience is condensed into
an account of the composition which digs deep and comes back with something
so special that we can only hold our breath in wonder at her immutable artistry!

'The Dreamer' truly is one of the year's greatest joys.

Essential.

(An Afterword : Etta James sadly passed away on 20th January 2012.
The listening world has lost a consummate artist and a great voice).
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on 14 November 2011
Apparently, Etta James' musical career ends with "The Dreamer".
The legendary vocalist announced a few months back that this would be her final album. She's retiring from music in order to deal with serious medical issues.
Co-produced by James, Josh Sklair, and her sons Danto and Sametto, The Dreamer's 11 tracks offer an imperfect but utterly worthy portrait of the places she's been musically with a couple of selections that reveal her dictum that "every song is a blues".
Her signature meld of soul, blues, rhythm & blues, rock, and country are all on display here. The production underscores her lifelong commitment to these styles and suits the material at large.
Her musical accompanists include not only her co-producers, but guitarists Leo Nocentelli and Big Terry de Rouen, saxophonist Jimmy Z., trombonist Kraig Kilby, and trumpeter Lee Thornburg.
Etta James' choice of material is rigorous even if two of its selections are questionable: the cover of Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" doesn't lend itself well to the choogling boogie arrangement here; and the funkified reading of contemporary country stars Little Big Town's "Boondocks" sounds like she tried too hard to make it fit.
These cuts aside, the rest of the material is vintage; it reflects the work of Ms. James' influences and contemporaries.
Her readings of Otis Redding's "Cigarettes & Coffee" and "Champagne & Wine", Bobby "Blue" Bland's "Dreamer", Bob Montgomery's country-pop standard "Misty Blue", Ray Charles' "In the Evening", Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "That's the Chance You Take", "Too Tired" and Little Milton's "Let Me Down Easy" all contain within them not only their original traces, but the musical experience necessary to bring their subtler, deeper meanings to the fore.
She re-creates these songs not as mere touchstones or mementos from a career, but as signposts to the living, breathing tradition that bears the signature and considerable influence of her life upon them.
"The Dreamer is a fitting"-- if not perfect -- bookend to one of American popular music's most iconic lives. T. Jurek
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on 3 December 2011
I do hope this is not Etta's last - but if it is, here we have another stunning addition to an amazing catalogue. EJ has never got the respect she deserves - for me not one duff recording in a long long career. It's only been Etta, Aretha and Joe Cocker who have consistetly been able to grab hold of someone els's song and give it a whole new life. Etta has always kept her ears open to the pop genre, as well as the more traditional. Guns and Roses cover - no problem, in the past other artists such as Prince, The Eagles, Alice Cooper have also attracted this amazing woman. As always superb production and musicianship. If you know Etta this won't disappoint - if you don't - jump on board.
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on 12 February 2016
CONTENTS:

“The Dreamer” by Etta James, released by Verve Forecast Records in US in 2011, was her final domestic studio album release. There are 11 songs. I have compiled a song listing (BB R&B=Billboard Rhythm & Blues Singles Chart; R&B=Billboard Rhythm & Blues Album Chart; BB BLUE=Billboard Blues Chart; BB Pop=Billboard Hot 100; BB C&W=Billboard Country Chart):

LP “THE DREAMER” (Verve Forecast B0016128)(R&B 41/2011; BB BLUE 2/2011):
01 GROOVE ME*original version by King Floyd (BB R&B 1(4)/1970)
02 CHAMPAGNE & WINE*original version by Otis Redding
03 DREAMER*original version by Bobby Bland
04 WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE*original version by Guns ‘N’ Roses (BB Pop 7/1988)
05 MISTY BLUE*original version by Dorothy Moore (BB Pop 3(4)/1976)
06 BOONDOCKS*original version by Little Big Town (BB Pop 46/2005; BB C&W 9/2005)
07 CIGARETTES & COFFEE*original version by Otis Redding
08 IN THE EVNING*original version by Ray Charles
09 TOO TIRED*original version by Johnny “Guitar” Watson
10 THAT’S THE CHANCE YOU TAKE*original version by Johnny “Guitar” Watson
11 LET ME DOWN EASY*original version by Little Milton (BB R&B 27/1968)

FINAL THOUGHTS:

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.

“The Dreamer” is her twenty-eighth and final album. It was released on November 8, 2011 as her final album due to her battle with leukemia at the time and released more than two months before her death. This album will be treasured.
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VINE VOICEon 13 February 2012
I love Etta James a massive personality with a fantastic voice,i first heard this Album when it was Album of the week on Radio 2 and decided that as soon as it came out i would have it to add to my collection,Etta James is one of those artists that has a huge voice with a richness that is going to be sorely missed,some wonderful music and tracks well worth a listen to.
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on 8 February 2015
More consistent and varied than Aretha, with a better take on blues, R&B, rock and roll and jazz too!, Etta never got the acclaim that she so truly deserved. Her earliest track are still vital, just listen to "The Pick Up" from the early 50s and then listen to her recordings from the early 60s that led to her deep soul stuff. She kept at it, reinventing herself with quality and integrity. I loathed the All The Way CD but that is the only thing I find a problem. The only dud song on here is here her newest version of Groove Me, which she has recorded in the 70s, so much better. Her version of Dreamer is a dream! Compare this to Aretha's latest failed effort and you realise how marvellous Etta truly was as a vital artist. The much neglected Irma Thomas suffers the same critical fate. Meanwhile other artists with no history of this music, which they often aspire too, sell buckets and buckets of volume. The modern marketing world is good for them but sad for artistic integrity. Beyoncé, please .....?
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on 12 February 2014
fantastic woman with a voice above all others . if only there was another like her around now...she will go on forever..god bless her.
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on 9 January 2016
A nice contrast to her early stuff, with her version of some classics
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on 1 September 2015
Super music by a legend. Need I say more?!
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on 17 July 2014
Great Eta James CD, thank you.
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