Miss Etta James
“Listen – Etta James – Tighten Up Your Own Thing – MP3″
I hope the middle of the week finds you all well. I’ve pretty much reduced my free time to sitting out on the front porch praying for gaps in the clouds, through which the rarest of the rare, i.e. rays of sunshine, pass only to tease me before hiding once more. It is at this point that I wish to lodge a formal protest with who ever is in charge of these things, that it’s too goddamn cold for the sixteenth of June (Happy Birthday Pop!) and I feel that my already spare allotment of summer days is being truncated. I realize that if you’re reading this wrapped in a bearskin in Musk Ox, Finland you will probably have a hard time mustering any sympathy for my plight, but I assure you that it is (at least regionally) unfair.
That bit of business dispensed with, I bring you – as promised – a bit of sister funk, from the catalog of one of the funkiest sisters ever, Miss Etta James.
I would be remiss if I did not admit that I slept on the sounds of Miss James for a long time, mainly because I assumed her to be part of an earlier era, of which I was (I am ashamed to say purposefully) ignorant. This was of course incorrect, at least in the sense that Etta James has been making quality music from the R&B era, right on through into classic soul and as today’s record will attest, funk.
Owner of one of the most powerful voices of all time, Etta James has led what can charitably called a rough life, dealing with all manner of tragedy – external and self inflicted – not the least of which was being portrayed by a certain, decidedly un-Etta-like popular singer in the film ‘Cadillac Records’. She got her start working in the mid-50s with no less a luminary than Johnny Otis, and eventually found her way into the House of Chess by the beginning of the next decade.
James recorded her best (and best remembered) material for Chess-associated labels (Argo, Cadet) between 1960 and the mid-70s, including bangers like ‘Something’s Got a Hold On Me’, ‘Tell Mama’ and her duet with Sugar Pie DeSanto ‘In the Basement’.
The tune I bring you today, ‘Tighten Up Your Own Thing’ was released in 1969 and appeared on her well-titled LP ‘Etta James Sings Funk’. The tune was written by Pearl Woods, a soul singer in her own right who recorded for Mala, Crackerjack, Dawn and Charge, and who co-wrote ‘Something’s Got a Hold On Me’. ‘Tighten Up Your Own Thing’ features a slamming vocal by Etta, some strong guitar and drums, and of course a wailing horn section.
‘Etta James Sings Funk’ was recorded a few years after her triumphant Muscle Shoals sessions, but any loss in Alabama grit is more than made up for with hard edged, Chitown swagger.
I hope you dig the tune, and I’ll be back on Friday with some international sister funk.