fri 07/08/2020

CD: Etta James - The Dreamer | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Etta James - The Dreamer

CD: Etta James - The Dreamer

Grand old queen of soul shouters still delivers in softer senior mode

Etta James contemplating the end of her wild career

The Dreamer is the relatively low-key swansong from one of soul’s greatest divas, a mountain of barely restrained power, who inspired and influenced several generations of singers. Why some musicians survive lives of excess and others don’t is something of a mystery. While Janis Joplin, for whom Etta James was the ultimate vocal and performance model, crashed early in her wild career, James has soldiered on, in spite of serious heroin addiction and a number of illnesses that would have felled most women of her age.

James has always manifested irrepressible energy, an intense force field that drove her gospel-inflected voice to deliver emotion like no one else in the business. The sides she recorded for Chess remain benchmarks of the burning style that mixed gospel shouting and the blues. In the past 15 or so years, she has gradually quietened down, as befits a lady of a certain age, but without losing any of her unique sensuality. There is a hint of Bobby Bland, master of understatement, not least in the new and final album’s title, which refers to his own 1970s classic Dreamer, the title track of which she covers beautifully. She does better on the slow blues than on the slightly generic up-tempo songs, as if she were a little tired of raving it up.

The production and playing is ultra-smooth and assured – with session pros such as Bay Area blues guitarist Bobby Murray who has played with her for over 20 years, New Orleans rhythm ace Leo Nocentelli of The Meters and a super-tight horn section modelled on the Memphis Horns. James is also ably supported by two sons, Sametto on bass and Donto on drums. The album as a whole has a feeling of nostalgia about it, with two classic Otis Redding ballads, “Champagne and Wine” and “Cigarettes and Coffee”, which James delivers with exquisite taste and soul - melancholy sexy stuff - as if her song would never end.   

Watch a clip of Etta James performing

James has always manifested irrepressible energy, an intense force field

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Comments

Etta James is amazing and no one..not even beyonce can out -shine her on this song

Etta has stamped and indelible mark on this song and our hearts. It will always be hers!

With deep gratitude Miss Etta for ALL the joy you brought us.....you are forver in out hearts and souls! Nameste!

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters