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Release Info: Etta James - The Second Time Around (1961)
Etta James was just 22 when she made the recordings for this album in 1960 and '61, but she had already established herself as a youthful belter of spirited R&B numbers. The Second Time Around was originally released by Argo Records as a 45-inch LP, containing five tracks on each side of the LP (with ten tracks overall). Like her previous album, At Last!, producers, Phil and Leonard Chess added orchestral strings arranged and conducted by Riley Hampton to the background music of James's voice, which garnered her with Pop crossover appeal. Like Aretha Franklin in the same period, James felt pressure from recording executives to go in different directions. Chess was unsure whether to market her as an R&B singer or to press her toward mainstream adult pop and jazz. This album presents both sides of the coin, with James doing rousing R&B numbers such as 'Seven Day Fool' and the protosoul of 'Don't Cry Baby,' lounge tunes like 'One for My Baby', the jazz-flavored ballad 'Fool That I Am,' Ellington's 'Don't Get Around Much Anymore' and a cover of the Pop standard 'Dream'. It hardly matters, though, for James's emotional immediacy and potent delivery make all the material her own. The album spawned three singles, which all became major hits on the Hot Rhythm Blues Records and Billboard Pop Chart in 1961. Etta would surely do her best with later albums like Tell Mama, but on The Second Time Around one hears the singer at her peak in a swinging and varied program of blues, R&B, and jazz standards.
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