It is near the end of the line for Etta James; the great vocalist has been ill for quite some time and it has recently been announced that she is suffering from terminal leukemia. Trooper that she is though, James recorded this one last album for her fans and it is a fine one.
The album begins with a rollicking version of King Floyd's "Groove Me" before moving into Otis Redding's celebration of good lovin', "Champagne & Wine." Somewhat amusingly, later in the album James again covers Redding, this time with the post- seduction "Cigarettes & Coffee."
There is no aural indication that James is sick or lacking in strength; she sounds as good covering a delicate chestnut like "Misty Blue" as she does on the southern funk/gospel of album standout track "Boondocks."
The Dreamer's most surprising track is a reimagining of Guns N'Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" as an R&B number where her sassy vocals convey just as much danger as Axl Rose's did on the original.
James has such a large body of work that longtime fans may point to one of her vintage titles as being her best but The Dreamer is a very suitable entry point for the uninitiated. Now is the perfect time for fans of acts like Amy Winehouse to come home to the soon to be gone treasure that is Etta James.