October 1st, 2012
Artist: Etta James
Format: 7-CD box set
Release date: August 28, 2012
Sony Legacy’s most recent Etta James box set features 7-discs worth of the artist’s late-career recordings (1997-2004) for Private Music, a label known for its roster of New Age musicians like Yanni and Suzanne Ciani. While there is little New Agey about Miss Peaches, Private Music captures a new age in Etta’s recording career, her blues-rock era. The discs Let’s Roll, Blues to the Bone, Burnin’ Down the House, and Matriarch of the Blues leave little room for doubt: Etta was a tour de force until the very end.
In this collection there isn’t much in the way of classic rhythm and blues, with which Etta is so closely associated she’s been hailed as the Matriarch of R&B. She stays away from her old material for the most part, and instead lends her voice to blues and jazz covers and newly penned tunes. The new songs are somewhat forgettable in comparison to her early work but some of the covers see Etta expanding her repertoire and experimenting with her voice and style in refreshing new ways—the best of which is heard on her cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightnin’” and the Rogers and Hart classic “My Funny Valentine.”
This collection will primarily appeal to the camp of Etta diehards collecting her every crumb as well as to contemporary ears completely unfamiliar with her previous output.
Reviewed by Betsy Shepherd