Personnel includes: Etta James (vocals); Riley Hampton (conductor); Harvey Fuqua, Sugar Pie DeSanto (vocals); Matt Murphy, Sidney Pinchback, Cornell Dupree (guitar); Clifford Clark (alto saxophone); Ben Branch (tenor saxophone); Delbert Dill (baritone saxophone); Burgess Gardner, Oscar Brasheer (trumpet); Morris Ellis (trombone); John Young, Milton Bland (piano); Richard Tee (keyboards); Charles Stepney (vibraphone); Reggie Boyd, David Henderson, Gordon Edwards (bass); Lawrence Hamilton, Steve Gadd (drums); Phillip Thomas (percussion).
The Kinfolks: David T. Walker (guitar); Garvell Cooper (tenor saxophone); Vonzell Cooper (organ); Marion Wright (bass); Freeman Brown (drums);
Producers include: Ralph Bass, Billy Davis, Monk Higgins, Rick Hall, Marshall Cress.
Compilation producer: Andy McKaie.
Recorded between January 1960 and December 1974. Includes liner notes by Lee Hildebrand.
Digitally remastered by Erick Labson (Universal Mastering Studios-West, North Hollywood, California).
Audio Remasterers: Erick Labson; Mike Ragogna.
Audio Remixers: Erick Labson; John Strother; Bill Inglot.
Liner Note Authors: Esmond Edwards; Lee Hildebrand; Marshall Chess.
Recording information: Chicago Ill.
Photographers: Michael Ochs; Esmond Edwards; Jason Pastori; Ray Avery; Gary Johns.
This three-CD set covering Etta James's stint with Chess is a fascinating chronological journey that includes a number of previously unreleased tracks. Aided by arranger Riley Hampton's sweeping string arrangements, James's early '60s material consisted of pop and R&B hits that were a mix of contemporary originals ("All I Could Do Was Cry," "My Dearest Darling") and classic standards ("Stormy Weather," "At Last"). Even throughout this phase of sophistication, James injected her earthy sexuality into a pair of Willie Dixon-penned blues covers--"Spoonful" and "I Just Want to Make Love to You," the latter of which was revived for a millennial ad campaign.
By 1967, James was down in Muscle Shoals churning out gritty interpretations of Otis Redding ("Security") and Aretha Franklin ("Do Right Woman, Do Right Man"), while dabbling in country (David Houston's "Almost Persuaded"). James's all-too short foray into Philly soul ("Never Love") gave way to producer Gabriel Mekler's attempts to make her a rock singer. James was equal to the challenge, and the remaining few tracks of this box set find her boldly mastering material by Randy Newman ("Sail Away"), Tracy Nelson ("Down So Low"), and W.C. Handy ("St. Louis Blues").