Etta James [Platinum Disc]

Not Rated

Though the album was recorded in Hollywood, Gabriel Mekler's production of one of the great soul singers sounds as though it were made in Muscle Shoals, circa 1966 — the sight of great past sessions. Etta James socks home nine bitter songs in an unadorned gospel voice, backed by brass, strings and vocals that never detract from the main event — the phenomenon of James herself, an expressive vocalist without bogus pop pretensions. Of special interest: three Randy Newman songs ("God's Song," "Leave Your Hat On" and "Sail Away") delivered with a fervid irony that adds to even the original interpretations.