She's no stranger to the towering highs and lows of the heart, and Etta James's soaring, gospel-tinged pipes match up well with the rigors of unabashed bliss. Happily, the good people at Chess Records recognize this, and they have thoughtfully collected some of the best examples into one tidy record. Kicking off with her classic treatment of "At Last," the collection moves through the lilting strings of "My Dearest Darling" on into the expressive tones of "I Want to Be Loved (But Only by You)" with grace and emotional candor. James can be simultaneously tender and deeply honest and her ability to express the desperate joy that is the soul of love remains one of life's marvelous pleasures. –Matthew Cooke
With the confusing plethora of Elmore James discs out on the market, this is truly the place to start, featuring the best of his work culled from several labels. Highlights include James' original recording of "Dust My Broom," "It Hurts Me Too," "T.V. Mama" (with Elmore backing Big Joe Turner), and the title track, one of the best slow blues ever created. Slide guitar doesn't get much better than this, making this particular compilation not only a perfect introduction to Elmore's music, but an essential piece for any blues collection.
James Levine's viennese recording of Smetana's famed masterpiece is one of the best performances of the work around today. With clear, full-bodied digital recording and ripe, rich and opulent playing from the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, it presents a performance that is as comporable to Kubelik as any other. Despite Levine's roots in the theatre (Metropolitan Opera), he manages to grasp a clear sense of drama in the work, and while some might argue that he is mainly concerned with orchestral effect for its own sake, he certainly does not do this but presents every minute detail in this musical kaliedascopic picture.