The Austin Chronicle

Celebration Day

Dinosaur DVDs with a smattering of punk, porn, and R&B

Reviewed by Margaret Moser, December 21, 2012, Music

Etta James

Live at Montreux 1993 (Eagle Rock)

Don't be fooled by the title. This single DVD goes well beyond 1993, serving as a kind of career retrospective for the late R&B singer, whose life was as tough as her music. Etta James reaped most of her hits by the Sixties, evidenced in set lists drawing from her early years. This CD/DVD combo keeps signature tunes "I'd Rather Go Blind," "Tell Mama," and "At Last" sprinkled throughout the live clips from 1993, but there's also footage from 1975, '77, '78, and '88 that tells the story of James, who battled drug addiction (evident in early footage) and weight issues that contributed to her death in January. Her subtle, gritty voice demonstrates those marked changes over the years. The '93 tunes shimmer with the patina of professionalism James had attained, but her performance of "I'd Rather Go Blind" almost 20 years earlier unfolds as superior to the more practiced later version. James was bigger than life, her decades of singing marvelously documented here.

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