ETTA JAMES-CALL MY NAME.

ETTA JAMES-CALL MY NAME.

During the sixties, Etta James released a number of critically acclaimed albums for the Cadet label, which was a subsidiary of Chess Records, one of which was Call My Name, released in 1967. It was Etta’s sixth album for Cadet, and was recorded at Chess’ Ter Mar Studios in Chicago. This was the first album where Etta had recorded all the tracks in one session. Previously, her albums were the result of the various sessions she’d recorded over the years, with a selection forming the basis for an album. However, Call My Name was different, and saw Etta enter the studio towards the end of 1966, with co-producers Monk Higgins and Ralph Bass. Ralph was well known to Etta, having worked for Chess since 1960, and been there when she recorded her first sessions for her new label. Monk Higgins was a veteran of the music industry, having worked with Junior Wells, Otis Clay and Betty Everett. With Monk and Ralph producing the sessions, twelve tracks were recorded, seven of which were co-written by Monk, with a variety of songwriting partners. As well as co-writing and co-producing Call My Name, Monk also played piano on the album. Now the album was recorded, it was set for release in 1967, but the question was, would it be more successful than her previous albums?

Of Etta’s five previous albums, only her debut album 1960s At Last! and 1963s Etta James Top Ten had charted. At Last! reached number sixty-eight in the US Billboard 200, while Etta James Top Ten reached number 117 in the US Billboard 200. Her other four albums all failed to chart. This included 1961s The Second Time Around, Etta James Sings For Lovers released in 1962 and 1965s The Queen of Soul. Would Call My Name prove more successful? 

On Call My Names’ release in 1967 on Cadet Records, the album failed to chart. Three singles were released from the album, with I Prefer You released in February 1967, reaching number forty-two in the US R&B Charts. The other two singles Don’t Pick Me For Your Fool and the title track, Call My Name both failed to chart. This was a huge disappointment for everyone concerned, and for Etta’s next album Tell Mama, she headed to Muscle Shoals to record with Rick Hall and his legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. That, however, was still to come and I’ll now tell you about the album that preceded it Call My Name.

Call My Name opens with Happiness, co-written by Vee Pea Smith and Maurice Dollison. It’s a dramatic introduction with rasping horns, rhythm section and guitars combining, before Etta’s vocal soars powerfully in. She’s accompanied by gentle backing vocalists, a contrasts to the drums and horns that combine powerfully and dramatically, to accompany Etta as she sings about being happy to be in love. The arrangement is full, laden with drama, emotion and passion from the opening bars to the final notes, with Etta’s vocal a mixture of clarity, emotion and power.

Straight away, That’s All I Want From You swings into being with horns and the rhythm section accompanying Etta. Her vocal veers between raw power and a slightly more restrained style, but never lacks neither emotion nor passion. Throughout this faster track, rasping horns punctuate the arrangement, combining with the rhythm section. Together the horns and drums unite, to provide a swinging backdrop for the impassioned pleas from Miss Peaches.

Have Faith In Me sees moody, growling horns, piano and rhythm section combine with chiming guitars, as Etta’s vocal enters. She’s angry and frustrated at her cheating partner, whose neglecting and mistrusting her. Quickly, her vocal grows, revisiting the raw power of the two preceding tracks. With gentle backing vocalists accompanying her, while the horns blaze dramatically throughout the track, almost as if competing with Etta’s vocal. They’re augmented by the rhythm section and guitars, which help drive the track along to its impressive crescendo. However, regardless of the drama they create, they’ve nothing on Etta, with the frustration in her voice almost tangible. This demonstrates her ability to make a song her very own, with her unique interpretation.

Again, I’m So Glad I Found My Baby sees blazing horns open the track, before giving way to a grateful Etta whose found love. Together with the rhythm section, the horns drive the song along, while gospel tinged backing vocalists accompany Etta’s thankful and passionate vocal. She almost roars and hollers her way elatedly through the second Vee Pea Smith and Maurice Dollison penned track on Call My Name. With such a heartfelt and almost frenzied delivery of the lyrics, against another horn drenched backdrop, it’s no wonder this track was chosen as a single. However, on its release as a single, it failed to chart.

One of the best known tracks on Call My Name is You Are My Sunshine, which is given a very different twist. With her band and backing vocalists, Etta transforms this into a track that combines a swinging, jazzy sound with elements of blues and gospel music. Etta’s vocal is strong and powerful, as she helps the song swing, as she sings call and response with her backing vocalists. Horns play a huge and vital part in swinging jazzy element of the track, while the rhythm section and searing guitars complete the line-up. Together with one her brilliant band, a sassy vocal from Etta ensures the track goes with a swing. The result is one of the best tracks from the album, and although it may be an old song recorded many times, but never quite like this.

Side one of Call My Name closes with It Must Be Your Love, one of the seven tracks co-written by Monk Higgins. This time, his writing partners are Chuck Bernard, Maurice Dollison and Billy Foster. Foster was Etta’s then partner, and although his name was given a songwriting credit, it’s thought that Etta cowrote the song. This was allegedly a ploy to outwit the inland revenue who were chasing Etta for unpaid back-taxes. This is a slower song, with searing guitars and rasping horns opening the track, before Etta’s thoughtful vocal enters. As her vocal grows in power the horns reenter, adding to the guitar and rhythm section. Together, they add an element of drama and emotion, as Etta, almost roaring, drives the song to its emotive and dramatic conclusion.

The second side of Call My Name opens 842-3089 (Call My Name). It’s another track with an impressive introduction, where growling horns, driving rhythm section and chiming guitars combine, with a sassy vocal from Etta. Throughout the track, the horns punctuate the track, while Etta almost screams and hollers. Subtle backing vocalists provide a contrast to Etta’s frenzied vocal, as she wills her partner to “pick  up the telephone and call me.” With such passion present in her voice, you can only help that her partner or suitor did “pick up the telephone” and called Etta.

Don’t Pick Me For Your Fool was another of the singles released from the album, but like Call My Name, failed to chart. It’s a track with a hugely dramatic introduction, horns almost snarling sympathetically for Etta, whose man is cheating on her and generally mistreating her. They combine with searing guitars, rhythm section and flourishes of piano as Etta angry and frustrated howls and hollers her way through the track, combining raw power with emotion masterfully.

I Prefer You was the only one of three singles that charted, reaching number forty-two in the US R&B Charts. Here, the interplay with Etta and her backing singers really makes the track. Their soaring gospel tinged tones a contrast to Etta’s much more powerful voice. Again, Etta unleashes her vocal, against a sultry backdrop of constant rasping horns, rhythm section and guitars. Repetition is key to the arrangement, with the horns locking into a great sounding groove and almost exhausting it, as they ring every last ounce of energy out of it. When this is combined with the rhythm section, backing vocalists and Etta’s vocal, this results in one of the album’s best tracks.

Guitars and rhythm section combine, before muted horns enter to accompany a lonely and loveless Etta on Nobody Cares. With her vocal full of heartache and pain, the arrangement has a sympathetic sound. Sad sounding horns combine with a soaring guitar and drama laden rhythm section, to provide the perfect backdrop for Etta’s vocal. Together, they provide an arrangement that reflects the despair and loneliness in her life, as heartbroken and lonely she emotively delivers the lyrics.

Curtis Mayfield wrote It’s All Right, another track many people will be familiar with. With horns drenching the uptempo introduction, Etta and her backing singers help the song swing along. Etta doesn’t hold back, throwing herself into one of Curtis’ most famous tracks. The backing vocalists help add the “soul” required in the lyrics. However, Etta demonstrates that she has more than enough for the track, delivering it with a confident style, against an arrangement where horns growl and rasp throughout. Not only is the song hugely catchy, but swings throughout and has more than a little of that magical ingredient…soul.

Call My Name closes with Nobody Like You a track that opens with just the rhythm section and guitars, before the horns enter. Their punchy sound punctuates the track, and accompanies Etta’s passionate vocal. With soulful backing vocalists accompanying her throughout the track, they, like the horns, play an important part in the track. Meanwhile, Etta almost screams that there’s “Nobody Like You,” the you being the man in her life, who she loves so much. As the drama and passion builds and builds, so too, does the emotion and passion in Etta’s voice, ultimately reaching a powerful and impressive crescendo, that seems a fitting way to close the album.

Having spent some time revisiting Call Me Name, and some of Etta James other Cadet era albums, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to what is a very good album. On the album, Etta sings with a combination of power, passion and emotion, accompanied by a really tight backing band and some hugely soulful backing vocalists. Of the twelve songs on the album, each of the twelve songs features a horn section. Instead of using the horn section sparingly, the co-producers have chosen to drench the album in rasping, growling horns. This might not sit well with some people, although I’m a big fan of horn sections on albums. Similarly, the way Etta sings each song with a combination of power and raw emotion might not please everyone. Here, she unleashes her hugely powerful on every track on Call My Name. Although she sings with power, she combines this with emotion and passion on every track. However, as good an album as Call My Name was, the next album Etta recorded Tell Mama, was a much better album. It was recorded in Muscle Shoals, with producer Rick Hall and his legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Rick Hall and his team of musicians brought out the very best in Etta James, and it’s just a pity that Etta never recorded more material like this. Both Call My Name and Tell Mama are great examples of the magnificent music of the Etta James, the lady whose fondly known to many people as Miss Peaches. If you’re a fan of her music, both Call My Name and Tell Mama have been rereleased by Kent Soul, along with Losers Weepers, Etta’s 1971 Cadet album. Standout Tracks: That’s All I Want From You, You Are My Sunshine, Don’t Pick Me For Your Fool and It’s All Right.

ETTA JAMES-CALL MY NAME.

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