Etta James “Payback” (Argo 5445, Pop #78, 1963)
When you’re dealing with a catalog as extensive and exhaustive as Etta’s, you don’t play favorites. You just select a tune that reflects your mood of the day. You say a prayer of thanks to those wonderful souls that give you little hints that take care of your emotional state. And I love a good bit of petty in my popular music.
The follow up to her Top 10 R&B smash “Pushover” works the same goldmine. On this record she ends up actually dating the triflin’ playboy around town, but, we know Etta has always been wiser than that. Nothing in life is like giving someone a little bit of a parting lesson before you wise up and move on to greener pastures.
With a sassy mashed-potato beat and dripping with sarcasm, I’ve always been surprised that it didn’t fare equal or better to its predecessor. As it stands to me though, it’s one of Etta James’s most overlooked single efforts of her transition away from the string soaked Jazz-Soul of 1961-62 and into her den mother of Girl Group era of 1962-65.