For “The Right Time” she returns to the Muscle Shoals studio where she recorded “Tell Mama,” this time with producer Jerry Wexler, and it’s an outstanding match. She hits nary a forced or false note and is backed with a stellar band that includes saxophonist Hank Crawford, guitarist Steve Cropper and bassist Willie Weeks. They plow ahead like a great offensive line blocking for an all-star running back — one who isn’t afraid to lower the shoulder and knock somebody over. There’s plenty of manufactured emotion on records, but you won’t find any of it here. Etta just rocks naturally. It’s like sitting next to a seasoned story teller in full command of the narrative. Nothing for you to do but sit back, close your eyes and listen.
A sign of great singers for me is how they put a stamp on songs that have been done many times. In that regard, Etta makes “Love and Happiness” and “Ninety and a Half Won’t Do” her own. She tears up “The Night Time Is the Right Time” with the help of Crawford’s sax. Of course she has the blues well covered, my personal favorite being “Down Home Blues,” and flashes her humorous side with the trash-talking “Wet Match.” She hits any note she wants without straining and with total conviction.
But all the songs are top-notch. The best advice for anyone reading this is to just pick up the album and discover the old-school glory of Etta James.