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Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars

on 23 March 2015
Another Not Now Music compilation and its traits are largely those we've come to expect. An exceedingly generous selection of tracks that do full justice to the period (1955 to 1962) and very good sound quality. On the slightly less positive side the tracks aren't arranged in order of release so we get the Argo records mixed in with those from Etta's Modern period but maybe I'm the only person who worries about this. What we do get are some perfectly good sleeve notes, and that's something you can't always say about Not Now.

Etta James' early career on which much of her reputation is based, straddled periods at two of the great independent labels of post-war USA, Modern Records of LA from 1955 to 1958 and Argo Records, a subsidiary of the great Chess Records of Chicago, up to 1965. Since Not Now obtain their music via PD regulations, the Argo selections we get are capped at 1962 - I believe the release of this set was 2012.

The majority of the selections here come from Etta's Chess / Argo spell. Not only do we get the singles - and I think we may have both sides of all of them (without detailed checking) - but also present are some well selected album tracks. The Modern material, as I've said, is intermingled. I had expected some jarring due to stylistic differences since Modern marketed Etta more in an R&B vein i.e. as a red hot blues mama along the lines of Big Mama Thornton. However, outside of a handful of tracks like the redoubtable "Good Rockin' Daddy" and her famous response to Hank Ballard, "The Wallflower (Dance with me Henry)", this doesn't happen. One reason for this is the very wide range of both style and songs she recorded at Argo: from out and out pop through blues, standards, slow laments that we'd now call soul, and tough R&B. Sometimes the latter would get adorned with strings, in an obvious attempt to hit the white buyer but that didn't necessarily lessen the power of the performance. And I have to add that I wouldn't be without the Modern stuff. Right near the end we get the excellent "Tough Lover", with a performance that may have borrowed a little from Mr Penniman but still stands proudly on its own two feet.

I should also mention that the two singles made with Harvey Fuqua, right at the beginning of Etta's Argo spell - they were actually released on Chess - are present and correct, and mighty fine they are too.

In my eyes the real difference between Modern and Argo was that the former label was targeting Etta at the US R&B Chart while Argo was more ambitious. Almost from the outset with "All I could do was cry", they were aiming at the white pop record buyer. This was an audience that Chess had already experienced considerable success with via Chuck Berry, and they correctly sensed the opportunity to repeat that success. Etta was undoubtedly a more malleable artist than Berry and certainly was capable of taking on board a much wider range of material. If I've implied any dumbing down in Etta's records whilst at Argo that's unintentional and would be incorrect. The very last single included (from December 1962) is "Would it make any difference to you", a superb country soul effort not unlike some that Atlantic had been releasing from Solomon Burke in the '61, '62 timeframe.

Etta James was the first really big female soul singer to emerge and she paved the way for others like Mary Wells at Motown and Aretha Franklin at Atlantic. And she might just have been the best of the lot.
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on 30 November 2015
CD1 is very good; CD2 so-so; CD3 hasn't single worthwhile track and is a complete waste of everybody's time.
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VINE VOICETOP 100 REVIEWERon 7 February 2013
With a collection covering the years 1954 to 1962 this 70 track 3 CD gatefold packaged set is surely going to please collectors and those who wish to hear many of Etta James' most successful performances. Includes:

1955 "The Wallflower (Dance with Me, Henry)" US R&b No 1 and to be found on Miss Etta James: The Complete Modern And Kent Recordings. 1960 "All I Could Do Was Cry" US R&B No. 6 and can be found on the album At Last! 1961 "Don't Cry Baby" US R&B No 6 and from the album The Second Time Around.

Liner notes are by Not Now regular Michael Heatley and the packaging has a soft colouring in mauve with 4 colour images. The years of recording are quoted and this is a substantial take on the career of Etta James. The sound transfers are excellent and as always the price of the set competitive.

Whilst many will no doubt know Etta James for her rendition of "At Last" there are 69 other reasons for purchasing this album which is a wonderful look back to the music of the middle 1950s to early 1960s. My favourite is the Gershwin classic "Someone to Watch over Me" but I bet you will find plenty more to enjoy.
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on 20 February 2014
Absolutely brilliant, I have only recently "discovered" Etta James, what a voice, such power, such emotion, she really had everything a truly great singer needs, she felt the words, the emotion in every song and it shows, she wasn't just singing the words as a lot of singers do, she felt everything she was singing. I can't praise her highly enough. Her version of At Last will be on my music list at my funeral, its that awesome (her song, not my funeral). If you want to hear a truly wonderful singer then you can't go wrong with this album and my musical taste spreads from Classical through to Frank Sinatra, AC/DC, Rory Gallagher, Dean Martin, Muddy Waters, Adam and the Ants etc, etc. so I have a really broad taste in music, Etta James is just awesome
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on 16 July 2013
There are so many excellent tracks here ,apart from the obvious like At Last, and I Just Wanna Make Love To You , this 3 disc set is crammed with quality stuff including loads of well produced ballads and bluesy numbers. everything here is 50 plus years old and the freshness is unbelievable . Etta's beautiful powerful yet gentle voice blows away many of today's wannabes . I'm so glad I bought this bargain set . I heartily recommend The Wallflower (Dance With Me Henry) Good Rockin' Daddy, Again and W.O.M.A.N and trust me... there's lots more where they came from ... QUALITY.
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on 24 August 2017
Absolutely amazing!!!
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on 29 April 2017
Tunes for those in the know
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on 22 October 2014
I bought this for my Daughter as, like me, she loves 50s music. She really loves the CD and I will be buying another one for myself so that I don't keep borrowing it. It has 3 CDs in total which makes it a very good purchase. If you like Etta James, you will love this!
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on 8 November 2015
I already had a number of these tracks on other c.ds but to even get one more Etta James track has to be good. How many other singers are as versatile as her? Probably none.
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on 3 December 2014
I had forgotten what a brilliant voice Etta had. Thankfully for an advertisement on television for one of the banks rekindled my interest as the music was Rockin' Daddy sung by Etta James. This is a superb compilation of her songs. Highly recommended
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