Entertainment » Music

Live At Montreux 1975-1993

by Steven Bergman
Contributor
Monday Aug 6, 2012
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Etta James had a varied musical life, reaching from the tops of the charts to the depths of obscurity throughout her six-decade career. With her passing this year at the age of 74, her recordings have reached "must-listen" status, and various aspects of her singing career have been released as of late. Currently, Eagle Rock Entertainment celebrates her longtime association with the Montreux Jazz Festival with "Etta James: Live at Montreux 1975-1993," featuring several of the hits that have firmly ensconced the songstress in the annals of the 20th century jazz and rhythm & blues archives.

The setlist pulls primarily from James’ 1993 appearance at the festival, and includes her classic hits "I’d Rather Go Blind" (originally recorded in 1967), and "I Just Wanna Make Love To You" - though she chose to rock out behind the arrangement of the song made more popular by the band Foghat, rather than her own original take on the Willie Dixon classic, circa 1961.

James performed at the famous Swiss festival five times, but with a noticeable gap between 1977 and 1989, due to her problems with drug addiction and alcohol. These recordings, however, capture the powerful performance style of the soulful singer. Whether on the funk-based "Come to Mama" or her signature song, "At Last," the latter rejuvenated by its performance by Beyonce for President Obama - a performance criticized by James, as she has been quoted as saying that she "could’ve performed it better," James wears her soul on her sleeve with every note she delivers. Throughout the 70-minutes of live, unedited music, James drags the listener into what she has to say, and is relentless in letting go until she has made her statement.

James suffered many years of obscurity sprinkled with the isolated years of success, and we have this recording to enjoy from the woman who helped bridge the gap between jazz, rhythm & blues, and rock and roll.

"Etta James: Live at Montreux 1975-1993"
Etta James
CD and Digital formats
Eagle Rock Entertainment

Steven Bergman is a Composer / Playwright / Performing Arts Educator based outside of Boston, MA.

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