Saturday, March 6, 2010
Etta JAMES - Sings Funk 1970
Etta James Sings Funk..
Seems to be one of the least known of Miss James' records. Why this is so, beats me... This is way up there with 'Tell Mama'.
Although recorded in Chicago, most of the LP breathes that Southern Soul vibe that graced the aformentioned masterpiece Etta recorded in Muscle Shoals in 1967.
"Tighten Up Your Own Thing" has big-voiced Etta in a ferocious funk bag. A mildly political song ("...stop segregatin', do some integratin'!"), this horn riddled, busy 'sock-it-to-me' workout is every bit the equal to James Brown's then current output.
But despite the album's title, there are quite a few beautifully arranged, slow paced gems here as well. Case in point is the lamenting, heavenly cruising "Sweet Memories". Etta's vocal attack is rough as ever, and with those shimmering strings and mourning backing vocals back there, it creates a wonderfully dynamic piece of raw soul testifyin' with a tad of gloss.
The funk returns with a vengeance on "Quick Reaction & Satisfaction", a fatback vamp of Memphis-styled nitty gritty groove, layered in brass and propelled by an incessantly poppin' bass. Etta's on a roll here... her first line, "...You're lower than a snake!", will have the most macho of men fall on their knees and weep.
Miss James heads South even deeper as she belts out the slow burnin' blues-drenched romp "Nothing From Nothing Leaves Nothing", and really tears it up with the incredibly powerful, superbly arranged "My Man Is Together". Etta's wailin' on the chorus just keeps on goin', hitting home everywhere. A masterful slab of gutbucket, full-throttled Southern Soul. Believe me, this is as good as Aretha's "I Never Loved a Man" or "Dr. Feelgood".
Closing side A is the most haunting track of 'Etta James Sings Funk'. "Are My Thoughts With You" has the same mournful, lamenting groove that carries Mickey Newbury's exquisite "Goodmorning Dear"; a Bacharach-like soul jewel, divinely orchestrated but never over the top, featuring a frenzied ("I done gone crazaaay!") vocal workout. This is one you'll have on repeat during those long, lonely winter nights.
Greasy, well-oiled, brassy full-powered Soul opens the flipside, with Etta churning out another gospelfide vocal on "The Man I Love", after which the more rock-oriented heavy tour de force, "Sound of Love", follows. The latter is lavishly produced: drenched in country church piano ramblings on the verses, it also sports timpani, classy backing vocals, strings and horns. James demonstrates her Italian roots by going off into a operatic-like finish on the finale.
"When I Stop Dreaming", one of those pop-styled ballads originally by the Louvin Brothers that was recorded by vritually everyone and their grandma in those days, really works well when sung by Etta. Through her raw vocal, it's turned into a gospelish, Southern Soul belter that even the at times intrusive arrangements can't drown out.
Things get far sweatier on the last two selections here: the bluesy, persistently slow grooving "What Fools We Mortals Be" (a track Etta had previously recorded for Chess back in 1956) features a dazzling, horn heavy finale, while "The Replacement" closes the album in an apt Southern Soul-styled sermonizing vein.
What's left to say. 'Etta James Sings Funk' is an underrated, sadly forgotten masterpiece.
A1. Tighten Up Your Own Thing 2:42
A2. Sweet Memories 3:34
A3. Quick Reaction & Satisfaction 2:37
A4. Nothing From Nothing Leaves Nothing 3:34
A5. My Man Is Together 4:09
A6. Are My Thoughts With You 3:22
B1. The Man I Love 2:53
B2. Sound of Love 2:49
B3. When I Stop Dreaming 2:35
B4. What Fools We Mortals Be 3:07
B5. Your Replacement 3:07