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
James Blunt may never live down the success of his first single, "You're Beautiful." It made him a star in 2004 yet it also pegged him as the kind of sad-sack singer/songwriter beloved of doctors' offices the world over, which may be enough to sustain a living but not a career. Blunt is savvy enough to realize this and he started to broaden and enliven his craft fairly quickly, abandoning the slow-footed ballads of Back to Bedlam for a richly textured pop that eventually gained some semblance of color by the time Some Kind of Trouble rolled around in 2010. Three years later, Moon Landing arrived and although its title suggest some kind of spectral scope, it's not quite as lively as its predecessor, preferring the exquisitely textured adult contemporary pop of Dido, but giving those intricately produced ballads insistent melodies and rhythms. Sometimes, Blunt's phrasing can lapse into solipsistic moans – this is especially true when the electronics are stripped away and the tempos slow – but when everything is relatively sprightly, the feel is surprisingly appealing, even though Blunt can't help but piggyback on styles that are a guaranteed rocket to the Top 40.