Though the studio albums Etta James made for Chess in the 1960s usually had the blues singer surrounded by lush production and string-heavy arrangements, this live date finds her performing with only a rhythm section, organist, guitarist, and tenor saxophonist. The singer seems to respond to both the stripped-down setting and the enthusiastic audience with noticeable abandon. In fact, James the classy balladeer, a role she sometimes plays on her studio albums, is nowhere to be found on this blazing set. The only time the band slows down is on the tearjerker story-song "All I Could Do Is Cry" (though what the tune lacks in tempo it makes up for in emotional intensity).
James, Etta - Rocks the House [BLUE VINYL] - New LP
Oh shit, this is some essential Etta, live and on fire. If you're looking for some quieter Etta in the studio, look elsewhere, this is loud and insane. The band is cooking and James is in her element, swinging her sling and kicking it out. Sure she slows it down once, but even then, she growls out the truth. This is part of the story that shows that the US was on fire with great music in 1963 (groove, R&B, soul, funk, girl group, garage, surf...) but for some reason so much of this was pushed aside when the British Invasion arrived armed with covers and versions of this same music. If I could go back in time to any time, you'd find on the floor front center at this show. -- winch