Little Esther / Esther Phillips

The Early Hits 1949-54

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Esther Phillips was only 13 when she first entered a recording studio in 1949, and a year later at 14 she had an international R&B hit with “Double Crossing Blues” for Savoy Records. Life was never the same for Phillips. Now billed as Little Esther, she was a certified star before she could drive, and she succumbed to the darker side of a musician’s lifestyle, miring herself in drink and drugs, a condition she never escaped. She still sang like an idiosyncratic and wounded angel throughout her career, though, no matter where she was on the roller coaster, and she made it into the '70s before everything finally caught up with her. This two-disc, 52-track set from JSP Records charts her early years with the Savoy and Federal labels, and includes that first hit, “Double Crossing Blues” (a duet with Bobby Nunn from the Robins), a fine version of Henry Glover’s “I’ll Be There,” several wonderful tracks with tenor sax player Ben Webster (“Hold Me,” “I Paid My Dues,” and the Gerswhins’ “Summertime” among them), the assured “Stop Cryin,” and a heart-stopping “Love Oh Love” (a version of W.C. Handy’s “Careless Love”), among other gems. Phillips had later hits in the '60s and '70s, but she never quite became a household name, although her singing certainly should have earned her that. Her earliest -- and arguably best -- recordings are here, making this a great introduction to a great singer. Phillips’ life can certainly be viewed as a cautionary tale, an all-too-familiar tragedy, but there’s no denying that the recordings she gave us are a national treasure.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
2:38
2
2:49
3
2:31
4
2:49
5
3:03
6
2:38
7
2:34
8
3:14
9
2:36
10
2:56
11
3:21
12
2:56
13
3:00
14
2:24
15
2:44
16
2:39
17
3:00
18
2:47
19
2:50
20
2:57
21
2:48
22
2:22
23
2:54
24
3:02
25
3:03
26
3:12

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
3:10
2
2:38
3
3:11
4
2:50
5
2:46
6
2:58
7
2:34
8
3:08
9
2:57
10
2:37
11
2:36
12
2:28
13
2:46
14
2:16
15
2:21
16
2:45
17
2:30
18
2:20
19
2:29
20
2:35
21
2:53
22
2:48
23
2:22
24
2:11
25
2:44
26
3:05
blue highlight denotes track pick