December 05, 1988 12:00 PM

Etta James

Give it up, chil’. Don’t even try to resist. Etta James has got one of those big, powerful, force-of-nature voices that is going to track you down and lay you flat out. This peerless soul singer had her first record, Roll with Me, Henry—a saucy answer song to Hank Ballard’s hit, Work with Me Annie—-banned in 1954 for being too suggestive. (Sanitized and whitened up as Dance with Me, Henry, it became a pop hit for Georgia Gibbs.) Etta, who says she is 50, is still dangerous, but now she can get away with it, and this first studio album in seven years is a winner. James kicks off the proceedings with a two-fisted reading of Otis Redding’s I Got the Will. She also does a solid job on the rockin’ chair blues of The Jealous Kind. But the blue-plate specials on Seven Year Itch combine a little blues, a little rock and a whole lotta soul over tightly compressed arrangements: Shakey Ground and Come to Mama. Longtime James collaborator Barry Beckett admirably produced lean but lively settings for the lady. Hey, if listening to records is giving you aural anemia, here’s an earthy cure. Go to Mama. (Island)

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