Etta James

Come a Little Closer

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Etta James was fighting serious substance abuse problems when this album was recorded, commuting to the sessions from a rehab center. It was a triumph simply to complete the record at all. Although James' life may have been in rough shape outside of the studio, she delivered a fairly strong set that fused forceful '70s soul arrangements with some rock (Randy Newman and John Kay both contribute compositions), jazz, and New Orleans R&B. Some of the material is routine, but there are some very strong cuts, like a rousing "Sookie Sookie" and "Out on the Street Again," with its slightly sinister funk groove. "Feeling Uneasy," in fact, counts as one of the unsung highlights of her career, with a wrenching, near-wordless scat-moan vocal over a suitably languorous, melancholy blues-jazz arrangement.

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