In August 1968, Etta James released her eighth studio album Tell Mama. It would mark another milestone for the singer, as it would be her first charted record in five years, and would contain two of her most notable hits.
At the time of recording, Tell Mama would join the countless albums recorded at the famous Muscle Shoals Studios in Alabama. Produced by Rick Hall, the album would go on to be credited with giving James a tighter and more soulful sound. The album would also be notable for some of its covers including Otis Redding’s “Security” and the Don Covay penned “Watch Dog”.
Upon its release, Tell Mama received positive reviews from critics, many of them calling the album her “best and most soulful”. On the charts, it became a top twenty R&B album (and made number 82 on the pop side). The title track and “Security” both became hit singles, reaching the R&B top twenty and pop top forty respectively, while “I Rather Go Blind” became a concert favorite for James. The title track would also go on to be famously covered by Janis Joplin, during the singer’s performance at the Toronto Festival in 1970. Tell Mama was later rereleased in the 1990’s, to include ten bonus tracks including a cover of Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe”.