Archive for the ‘chaka khan’ tag
Etta James is one of the last pure R&B singers alive today. She has influenced countless artists and her impact can definitely be heard in today’s singers (Adele, Jennifer Hudson, Amy Winehouse). Known best for her powerful torch songs “At Last” and “Trust In Me,” this latest compilation album, The Essential Modern Records Collection, is not only great for those unfamiliar with James’ early recordings, but it’s also a wonderful stroll down memory lane for those who grew up during the heyday of rock n roll.
“The Wallflower (aka Roll With Me Henry)” captures James’ vibrant, sassy personality in her vocals. Although she sounds every bit feminine and pretty, her sassiness definitely comes out in the lyrics telling us all who’s really the boss in that relationship. As the beat drops, she quickly orders “Henry” to “get the lead out” of his feet. A response to singer Hank Ballard’s “Work With Me Annie,” “The Wallflower” is perhaps one of the earliest known answer songs—long before “Roxanne’s Revenge”.
Before female empowering songs like Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” or Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls),” there was simply “W-O-M-A-N.” James is in total command for her feminine wiles and feisty humor shine on the lyrics: “You ain’t got nothing in your pockets to keep me alive/But I got something for all you men to make you cry”. Her powerful vocals possess both a guttural and vulnerable quality. During a time when most popular blues singers were men (Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Little Walter), James’ “W-O-M-A-N” was a refreshing break from a male-dominant tradition.
On “Number One (aka My One And Only),” James’ proclaims her love and devotion to that special man. Opening with powerful horns in the rhythm section, they just don’t stand a chance against James’ booming vocals as she shouts “OOOOOONNNNNEEEEE.” The overall sound is very reminiscent of Little Walter for they were once label mates on Chess Records, but James has definitely put her signature bawdiness all over this song.
Although Etta James continues to tour, there’s definitely a renewed interest in her and her music thanks to films like Cadillac Records. Listening to James’ early recordings will give you the feeling of going back in time, perhaps to an old-fashioned house party that your parents experienced when they were younger. Her music on The Essential Modern Records Collection encapsulates a piece of rock n roll history and James is definitely an unacknowledged trailblazer for a long line of outspoken, talented women in the music industry.