Esther's career was somewhat up-and-down. She first tasted success at the start of the fifties but then a lot of this went wrong. Esther got another chance when she was rediscovered in 1960 singing in a Houston nightclub by Kenny Rogers, who was himself some years away from making the big time. Release me (a cover of a country song from the early fifties) was given the R+B treatment by Esther and her musicians, resulting in an American top ten hit, which led to a contract with Atlantic in 1964. Despite the title of the album, Release me is included here. Of course, the most famous version of the song is the one by Engelbert Humperdinck, but at the time Esther had her big hit, he was still Gerry Dorsey, an unknown singer living in Leicestershire.
There is no question that the other nineteen tracks here are Atlantic recordings. Many of these are, like Release me, covers or (more accurately) re-interpretations. Esther recorded songs with diverse origins including And I love him (Beatles), If you love me really love me (Edith Piaf), As tears go by (written by members of the Rolling Stones for Marianne Faithfull, whose own version launched her career in the sixties) and older songs by composers such as Cole Porter (Every time we say goodbye, It's all right with me) and others.
Esther's versatility may not have helped her. Atlantic tried various styles and settings in an attempt to recapture the success of Release me, but to no avail. Nevertheless, Esther was a brilliant and very distinctive R+B singer whose music stands comparison with any of her contemporaries. This compilation provides a great introduction to her music.
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