Slowly but surely over recent years we’ve built a small but perfectly formed catalogue of female soul drawn from the roster of Chess Records of Chicago. We started the ball rolling with “Where The Girls Are, Vol 2: Chess Female Singers & Groups” (CDCHD 745), “Shades Of Mitty Collier” (CDKEND 301) and Sugar Pie DeSanto’s “Go Go Power” (CDKEND 317), before turning our attention earlier this year to the one and only Etta James, the company’s biggest female star.
One of the greatest ever singers of soul and R&B, male or female, Etta spent her glory years at brothers Leonard and Phil Chess’ label, releasing 13 marvellous albums between 1960 and 1975. Believe it or not, fewer than half of those long-players have ever been reissued in their entirety. There are many CDs of Etta’s wonderful Chess recordings available, but most of them feature the same familiar hits. We took our first steps to remedy that situation in February with “Who’s Blue?” (CDKEND 346), a collection comprising mainly new-to-CD album tracks and B-sides, and are now delighted to announce this first-time reissue of 1967’s “Call My Name”, a superb yet overlooked set which contained some of her most impassioned recordings to date.
Whereas Etta’s previous LPs had been pieced together from various sessions, “Call My Name” was conceived as a whole. Recorded in late 1966, the album was co-produced by veteran A&R man Ralph Bass, an acquaintance of Etta’s since the mid-50s, and Monk Higgins, a prime mover in the early days of Chicago’s One-Der-Ful group of labels. All but three of the songs were penned by Higgins and/or his frequent collaborator Maurice Dollison, aka singer-guitarist Cash McCall. Of the LP’s 12 tracks, ‘Happiness’, ‘That’s All I Want From You’ (a song popularised in the 1950s by Etta’s idol Dinah Washington), ‘Have Faith In Me’, ‘You Are My Sunshine’, ‘Nobody Loves Me’, ‘It’s All Right’ and ‘Nobody Like You’ make their CD debut here. It might not have sold too well at the time, and it spawned no big hit singles, but if you prefer your Chicago soul punchy and emotional, of all Etta’s albums, “Call My Name” is the one for you.
Our reissue of the LP comes with 12 bonus titles. The Chess brothers had noticed the winds of change blowing up from the South and began sending their artists down to Rick Hall’s FAME Studio in Alabama in hope of igniting their careers. It certainly did the trick for Etta. The astounding “Tell Mama” album she cut there restored her to her rightful status, the title cut providing her with a career high chartwise in 1967. It is from her three subsequent trips to FAME that the first eight of this collection’s 12 bonus tracks are drawn.
Leonard Chess’ son Marshall was appointed producer of Etta’s next sessions, which took place at Sam Phillips’ studio in Memphis in 1969. Etta was in bad shape at the time and completed only ‘Slow And Easy’, ‘The Soul Of A Man’ and a striking treatment of the Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’ before the plug was pulled. Among the abandoned cuts was ‘Miss Pitiful’, a gender-switched version of the Otis Redding number, which Etta re-cut more successfully with Gene Barge in the producer’s chair back in Chicago a few weeks later. The track concludes this collection.
By Mick Patrick