Argo Records, 1960Listening to Etta James can bring you as close as it’s possible to get to heaven without leaving your physical body behind you. Take the title track of her phenomenal debut album, At Last!: when James’s pure voice rises in perfect concert with the nuzzling strings, it’s as if flowers have spontaneously sprung into bloom, the clouds have parted and, for three glorious minutes, all is well with the world. Continue reading
It’s a real struggle to try and sum up what’s so arresting about Marlena Shaw. This New York-born chanteuse of soul and blues is best known in the UK for her interpretation of ‘California Soul’, the exuberant, feel-good soul-stunner written by Ashford & Simpson.
From the instant Shaw’s coffee-blend-rich voice takes over from the gust of strings and hand claps that greet your ears, you are enveloped by visions of a picturesque California. Glamorous figures gliding by sun-soaked beach strips; open-topped convertibles streaking through the heat haze, coursing down bare roadways; M&S Food ad-style close-ups of buffet tables and barbeques awaiting party guests; lovers laughing together like not a thing in the world could trouble them. Not just good times, the best of times. Continue reading