Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Etta James: Deep in the Night [Warner Bros., 1978]
Most of James's albums suffer from radical unevenness; this one is marred by its consistency. Producer Jerry Wexler's song choices are as tastefully imaginative as his arrangements, but James has never had much midrange, and her versions of (good) material from such luminaries as Kiki Dee, the Eagles, and Alice Cooper are inferior to the originals. She doesn't get much out of "Piece of My Heart," either. That said, I'll admit to enjoying side two--opening with a jaunty "Lovesick Blues" and touching base at gospel (Dorothy Love Coates), soul (Allen Toussaint), and r&b (revamping her own "I'd Rather Go Blind"). But it's still a little boring. Which means it's not the real Etta. B