Mitchell: No contemporary artist comes close to Etta James’ force
Etta James’ contribution to R&B, blues, jazz and even rock cannot be overstated. She was blessed with one of the most powerful voices in contemporary music and she enjoyed dozens of hits during her career which started in the mid-1950s.
James was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, The Blues Hall Of Fame and The Grammy Hall of Fame while racking up 17 Blues Music Awards and a half dozen Grammys.
When she passed away earlier this year after a lengthy illness, her album At Last with her title signature song, hit the top 10 album sales.
Meanwhile, Rolling Stone magazine ranked James No. 22 on its list of all-time greatest singers.
James was also a regular at the famed Montreux Music festivals and this new posthumous album features several highlights from her performances in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.
There are too many great performances to mention but the opener is the great Willie Dixon classic I Just Want To Make Love To You that is so forceful and full of sexual aggression it makes any other version if this gem you may have ever heard, sound wimpy in comparison.
My fave track is a cool gospel/rock version of The Staple Singers’ evergreen Respect Yourself while James offers a strong and ribald version of her huge hit I’d Rather Go Blind.
James proves her worth as a torch singer on the jazzy A Lover Is Forever while she proves to still be a worthy ballad singer on the handsome medley of At Last/Trust In Me/A Sunday Kind Of Love.
On a few of these songs James adds lots of double entendres and cheeky asides for cheap audience thrills but mostly this is a stellar live set that clocks in at over 70 minutes. My only minor complain is that her superb backing band with full horn section is not credited as there are a few cool solos here on guitar, flute and sax.
Fans should note that the entire 1993 Montreux concert will be released on DVD and Blu-ray at the end of this month.
Incubus: HQ Live Special Edition (Sony)
Incubus, along with the like-minded Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit were among the most popular and influential of the new alt metal bands that bookended the new millennium.
To celebrate their 20 years together Incubus opened up a store front studio on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles that they dubbed the Head Quarters—and hence the title HQ Live—to record large chunks of their past catalogue over four different nights. The result is this Special Edition two-CD and DVD set (also available in a one CD/DVD set).
The band decided to not make a newly recorded greatest hits collection but focused more on popular album tracks that proved to be fan favourites in concert.
There are several of their better known hits that are eschewed and overlooked here but there are sinewy and stripped down takes of hits such as Promises, Promises, Love Hurts, Anna Molly and Circles.
The copy sent to me is the Special Edition version that has 28 tunes on the double CD set while the DVD has well over two hours of video performances taken from their store front HQ.
This will come off as a fans only release but Incubus are being praised for their electrifying performances, however; if it is an overview of just the hits, you might want to look elsewhere.
Morning Parade: (Parlophone/EMI)
This is the debut album from England’s Morning Parade as produced by Blur fixture Jason Cox at Damon Albarn’s studio.
The five-some has had considerable success in the U.K. opening for the likes of Florence And The Machine and Tinchy Strider while their singles sold well enough to encourage a career.
This 11-track album collects those singles for a domestic release and Morning Parade are somewhat slightly better than the rest of the field of indie synth rock that is greatly overcrowded.
The album makes for a passable listen but there is no killer track to really grab your attention on this self-titled debut. Sometimes the group’s harmonies turn into soccer chants like on Us & Ourselves while the closing track, Born Alone, ventures into shoe gazer territory.
Morning Parade also too often fall into the loud/quiet/fast/slow song arrangements that show a lack of imagination but the song Close To Your Heart, with its straight up indie rock pulse, and the folk pop of Half Liter Bottle, shows more depth.
The album has made the middle of the pack of the Heatseekers chart while the song Headlights has become a minor rock hit.
A band to watch but don’t expect any imminent masterpieces.