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The intensity and the emotion of Melissa Etheridge

POP MUSIC

Melissa Etheridge, "Memphis Rock and Soul" (Stax)

This is about as simple a way to put it as you'll find: "So much of what I've wanted to be and wanted to sing and show [is] that emotion [and] that intensity that has no color. It comes from your soul. Each of us knows the heartbreak of 'I've Been Loving You Too Long'--'Please, don't make me stop now!' "

Or, to put it another way, if going to Memphis was good enough for Dusty Springfield way back when, it ought to be good enough for any rock singer now.

So Melissa Etheridge went to Memphis and recorded in its historic Royal Studios with musicians who, once upon a time, recorded with Al Green and Rufus Thomas among others. And while she was in the neighborhood, she sang some music by the all time Memphis greats --The Staple Singers' "Respect Yourself," Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long," Albert King's "Born Under a Bad Sign," Sam and Dave's "Hold On, I'm Coming" etc.

"Most of the songs were no more than three takes and most of the vocals were live....We were in love with each other by the last day. Just didn't want it to be over."

Whether or not you approve of the chutzpah of Etheridge getting Priscilla Renea to write new words for the Staple Singers' "Respect Yourself" you have to admit Etheridge's version works. John Mayer shows up to play guest guitar on two tracks. A labor of love, clearly. To be listened to with affection at the very least.

3 1/2 stars (out of four)

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