Album: Etta James, The Dreamer (Verve)

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The Independent Culture

A final album prior to "retirement" by the great blues shouter, covering most of the generic bases touched by her magnificence over the past 50 years.

James's voice is slightly diminished but not so as to sound like anything other than itself. She's the real deal. Sound? It's a chugging ensemble dominated by guitars and horns. Sometimes stately, seldom subtle. Outstanding songs? Dorothy Moore's "Misty Blue" (sigh) and Bobby Bland's "Dreamer". She'll be missed.