Leave it to those soul-loving Brits to unearth some of the finest previously unreleased on CD music from the matriarch of the blues. These two dozen selections cover a large swath of years, from 1962 through 1976, but the majority are from Etta James' prime period in the mid- to late '60s. While the song quality varies from prime to pedestrian, James always delivers the vocal goods, sounding committed and driven on even the more forgettable tracks. The compilers dig into James' Chess catalog to find singles, B-sides, and album cuts, many from releases that never found their way onto CD, to cobble together a pretty terrific sampler, albeit one geared toward fans who already own James' popular material. Some selections such as James' FAME-recorded version of Willie Dixon's "Fire" aren't all that tough to find, but there are plenty of true rarities here that will delight any soul/blues music fan of this era. One such is 1962's "Street of Tears," a lost B-side that's as good, if not better, than some of the available tunes from that time. Four selections from 1970's Etta James Sings Funk album that never managed a digital-era release also appear, as does the disc's earliest recorded tune, 1962's "Let Me Know." The latter, a gem of a performance hindered by schlocky background singers and sappy strings common to that time period, nevertheless features a knockout James vocal. Two tracks from another album lost to the CD era, 1970's Losers Weepers, lead off the set and can easily be included on any compilation of James' finest performances, instead of being relegated to this set of hidden gems. The 24-page book includes comprehensive and copious liner notes printed on thick paper stock, rare color pictures of the singles, and the kind of attention to detail that is seldom found on U.S. releases anymore, making this an essential addition to any Etta James lover's collection.
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AllMusic Review by Hal Horowitz