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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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ETTA JAMES

Time After Time/Mystery Lady

Retroworld FLOATM 6121

 

 

Time After Time
1. Don't Go To Strangers
2. Teach Me Tonight
3. Love Is Here To Stay
4. The Nearness Of You
5. Time After Time
6. My Funny Valentine
7. Imagination
8. Fool That I Am
9. Willow Weep For Me
10. Everybody's Somebody's Fool
11. Night And Day
12. Someone To Watch Over Me
 
Mystery Lady
13. Don't Explain
14. You've Changed
15. The Man I Love
16. I Don't Stand A Ghost Of A Chance (With You)
17. Lover Man
18. Embraceable You
19. How Deep Is The Ocean
20. The Masquerade Is Over
21. Body And Soul
22. The Very Thought Of You
23. I'll Be Seeing You

Collective Personnel
Etta James - Vocals
Eddie Harris, Herman Riley - Tenor saxes
Red Holloway - Tenor sax, alto sax
Ronnie Buttacavoli - Trumpet, flugelhorn
Kraig Kilby - Trombone
Cedar Walton - Piano
Josh Sklair - Guitar
John Clayton, Tony Dumas - Bass
Paul Humphrey - Drums
Ralph Penland - Drums, percussion
Donto Metto James - Shakers

 

Etta James sadly died in January 2012 after a life bedevilled by drug addiction. She made her name as a singer in the blues and rhythm-and-blues traditions but the two albums assembled on this double CD come from her later years, when she sang more in a jazz style. Incidentally, my copies of the album put the wrong titles on the discs, and the songs are listed in the wrong order in the sleeve-notes. Some of the sleeve-notes are hard to read, especially when they are printed on a black background.

The album Time After Time dates from 1995 and presents Etta singing jazz standards with some excellent backing musicians. Her intonation is sometimes suspect but she delivers the songs with conviction and clear diction, as well as putting emotion into every performance. Occasionally she sounds as if she is short of breath, not holding notes for long, but this doesn't hinder her persuasiveness. Her roots in gospel singing are evident in her ardour at the conclusion of The Nearness Of You and the unaccompanied verse at the start of Willow Weep For Me.

Etta is lucky in her accompanists, who are basically the same on both albums. On many tracks they provide smartly-arranged backings, and the individual musicians contribute worthy solos. Don't Go To Strangers has a great guitar solo from Josh Sklair, sounding rather like B. B. King. Eddie Harris's distinctive tenor sax brightens the title-track. Cedar Walton's twinkling solo in Imagination elicits a "yeah!" from Etta.

"Mystery Lady" was a name given by Etta James to her mother, who was often absent, leaving Etta to be looked after by various people. But in this case the reference is to vocalist Billie Holiday. Etta's 1994 album pays tribute to Lady Day by performing some of Billie's most popular songs, starting with the heart-rending Don't Explain, which has notable solos from trumpeter Ronnie Buttacavoli and pianist Cedar Walton. Etta captures the poignant regret which infuses many of Billie Holiday's performances. She doesn't imitate Billie but pays her homage through the sincerity with which she delivers the songs. She even manages to refresh the hackneyed Body And Soul by making it personal.

Once again, the backing musicians support the singer superbly, with a gorgeous ensemble in Body And Soul. Powerful saxophone solos come from Red Holloway in You've Changed, The Man I Love and Embraceable You, and Cedar Walton supplies pertinent backing in The Masquerade Is Over.

Etta James has left us, but we can still relish her undeniable talent through these two wonderful albums.

Tony Augarde
www.augardebooks.co.uk



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