Saturday, January 25, 2014

(Three Stages of) Ettamology: 1.25.1938 - 1.20.2012

All right, happy Saturday Night! We are gathered here this evening to party down to some lowdown dirty funky blues -- not one, not two, but three smokin' sets by today's birthday woman for the ages, Miss Etta James, ladies and gentlemens.
Etta would have been 76 today but she lived a great life spreading love and music, so the purpose isn't sadness. Hers was a Blues of power and upliftedness anyway, and you'll hear her in these three different concerts command the stage and blow the audiences through the respective roofs with what she is laying down. The impression is of delirium, with everyone on the stage and in the audience in a kind of fervent ecstasy. Even the slower, more melancholic songs carry a sense of churchified redemption and salvation. No tears being shed here... maybe a few tears of Joy.
In W.O.M.A.N., she says, "I'm a WOMAN y'all, and I ain't lyin'!" and that about sums it up. If music is truth, Etta James never told a lie over a storied career of six decades, and these live sets cook with furious abandon in keeping with that established tradition.
I really like the song selection in these shows... Etta wasn't just a gutbucket Blues diva of monumental proportions, she was an interpreter of songs ranging far and wide. Here we get songs made famous by Randy Newman, Janis Joplin, The Rolling Stones and The Eagles, among others. This is where the electric meets the eclectic, and the end results are epically effervescent indeed.
This is Etta at the absolute peak of her powers: 101% funk, soul and Blues with a capital B through and through. The Seattle set was recorded by the soundman at the desk with a mono feed straight to the legendary taperpat's reel-to-reel deck, while the Montreux and Oakland sets are from master tapes recorded directly off FM radio back when such things were common sport among music enthusiasts. The Switzerland segment features grooves so deep I almost needed a ladder to get back up on my feet.
I really like the mix of the Oakland Arena bit a lot, and not just because I spend a big chunk of my summers living and dying with baseball games that are played just across the parking lot from there. Some people say this show took place downtown in the old Henry J. Kaiser Auditorium, and it may well have, but to my ears it sounds like the bigger Arena and not the 3,000-seater. Either way, it's New Year's Eve and the whole place is going consistently berzerk as Etta storms through a wild, jammy set fronting the Dead, augmented further (furthur?) by the horn section from Oakland's own Tower of Power. Old acquaintance is definitely not forgot in that one... or any of these three monster sets, that much is certain.
Etta James
Montreux 1977 - Seattle 1980 - Oakland 1982

Montreux Jazz Festival
Montreux, Switzerland

01 Groove Me Baby
02 At Last/Trust In Me/Sunday Kind of Love
03 You Can Leave Your Hat On
04 Sail Away
05 Rock Me Baby
06 Tell Mama

FM broadcast from master tape
Total time: 38:02

Bumbershoot Festival
Seattle Coliseum Center
Seattle, WA

01 Instrumental
02 I Just Wanna Make Love to You
03 Take It to the Limit
04 Baby What You Want Me to Do
05 Piece of My Heart
06 I'd Rather Go Blind
07 W.O.M.A.N./Shake Your Booty
08 Miss You
09 Sugar On the Floor

mono soundboard feed, original reels
Total time: 1:02:01

Oakland Arena (or possibly Henry J. Kaiser Auditorium)
Oakland, CA
with The Grateful Dead and the Tower of Power horns

01 Turn On Your Lovelight
02 Tell Mama
03 Baby What You Want Me to Do
04 stage banter
05 Hard to Handle
06 Midnight Hour

FM broadcast from master tape
Total time: 28:05

total 769 MB FLAC/January 2014 archive link
Just a note: if you are using 20th Century media and want to burn these to CDs, the 1977 and 1982 sets fit on one of those and the Seattle fits on another. Anyway I hope you have a Saturday night as blazing as these raw, stomping concerts from our birthday celebratee Ms. James here! She may be gone but when you check out these shows you'll see why ain't nowbodhi forgetting.