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R&B - Released January 1, 1966 | Capitol Records

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Although it should have been issued the previous year and Imperial Records even had a catalog designation reserved for the project (LP-9275), Irma Thomas' second long-player for the label also turned out to be her last. The vocalists professional relationship with songwriter/producer Allen Toussaint had been established several years earlier on the R&B hit "It's Raining." Here, he supplies a third of the disc's material beginning with the optimistic and stylishly orchestrated "Take a Look" -- giving the album both its title track and opening selection. The upbeat and sassy "Teasing, But Your Pleasing" is another Toussaint-penned tune and exemplifies the symbiosis between the artist and composer as the catchy melody and Thomas' carefree delivery are a custom fit. That certainly isn't to imply that she has lost any of her emotive capacity, as she so aptly demonstrates throughout the effort, and nowhere more so than "I Haven't Got Time to Cry," or Jerry Ragavoy's "You Don't Miss a Good Thing (Until It's Gone)" -- arguably William Bell's blueprint for "You Don't Miss Your Water." Thomas resonates a similar sensitivity on "It's Starting to Get to Me Now" sounding like a Dionne Warwick protégé thanks to the Burt Bacharach-like chord progressions and writing style of up-and-coming songsmith and producer Van McCoy. Still nearly a decade away from creating his own hits -- most notably the chart-topping dance monster "The Hustle" -- McCoy contributed a total of four selections. While his arrangement of "Some Things You Never Get Used To" could be an homage to the Bacharach/David classic "Walk on By," the edgier "He's My Guy" is an ideal match of singer and song as Thomas' attitude seethes right below the surface of her graceful delivery. Fans of Northern U.K. soul often rank the infectiously buoyant "Baby, Don't Look Down" among their favorite discotheque spins dedicated to preserving the spirit of the music and times. Wrapping up Take a Look are a final pair from Toussaint with the cheery and definitely Motown-inspired "What Are You Trying to Do." "Wait, Wait, Wait," on the other hand, is unique as it reflects Toussaint's early influence and love of '40s and '50s country and western music. One could easily hear Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, or Loretta Lynn lending their respective intonations to it. © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2004 | Stateside

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R&B - Released January 1, 2011 | Capitol Records

It's because of powerful platters such as this that vocalist Irma Thomas would rightfully garner the crown as the undisputed Queen of New Orleans' thriving R&B scene. She established her reputation as a no-nonsense soul sister with the attitude-driven "You Can Have My Husband (But Don't Mess with My Man)," "A Good Man," and the regional hit "Look Up" prior to landing at the Crescent City powerhouse Minit Records. It was there she joined forces with the musical wunderkind Allen Toussaint who provided Thomas her next batch of notable sides, specifically "It's Raining" and "Ruler of My Heart" (aka "Pain in My Heart"). She was also among those to make the transition to the significantly larger Imperial Records after they purchased Minit in 1963. Wish Someone Would Care (1964) was the first of two long-players that Thomas released during her brief (1964 -- 1966) run on the Imperial roster. The album opens with the yearning torch balladry of the title track "Wish Someone Would Care" featuring Thomas supported by the inimitable H.B. Barnum, who tempers her remarkably versatile voice in the first of several sensitive arrangements. "I Need Your Love So Bad" is reflective of the guttural and bluesy style commonly associated with the likes of Otis Redding and James Brown. Here, Thomas definitely gives the boys a run for their money. The melody of "Without Love (There Is Nothing)" bears a striking resemblance to the "Tennessee Waltz" during the languid verses. The chorus, however, finds Thomas calling on her gospel roots to really "sell" the performance to great aplomb. Her update of Percy Mayfield's "Please Send Me Someone to Love" is a stone classic and easily takes on Odetta and Esther Phillips' respective versions with plenty of power to spare. "Time Is on My Side" -- initially relegated to a 45 rpm B-side -- found its way across the Atlantic ocean where it would take on a life of its own once the Rolling Stones covered it less than a year later. Similarly, Thomas' reading of the Jackie DeShannon co-penned "Break-A-Way" became a runaway smash throughout the bayou. And though it seemed to attract little attention elsewhere in the States, it has been remade to great effect by Tracey Ullman. Both the LP and single for Wish Someone Would Care crossed over onto the pop charts, simultaneously giving Thomas her only Top 40 single and Top 100 Album entry. © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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R&B - Released April 21, 1992 | CAPITOL CATALOG MKT (C92)

This 23-track compilation is one of two very generous, mostly overlapping Irma Thomas collections out there -- the other is Razor & Tie's Sweet Soul Queen of New Orleans: The Irma Thomas Collection. The order here is strictly chronological, mostly going A-side by A-side on the Minit and Imperial singles, with some occasional leaps to the B-sides where they're relevant (and a lot of Thomas' B-sides were). All of it shows off the then twenty-something Thomas extending her range by leaps and bounds with each succeeding side, a level of subtle nuance added here, a prodigious burst of lung power there -- in the latter department, "Break-A-Way" and "Time Is on My Side" still comprise one of the great one-two punches in any artist's repertory. But the A-side of that last (which puts the Stones' version to shame), "Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)," isn't to be missed, either. The second half of this collection is an overview of what should have been -- Thomas' early Imperial sides were her biggest, most recognizable hits, but the material that follows is definitely not filler, and why those songs never sold is anyone's guess. What's more, overlooking the unaccountably modest performance of records such as "He's My Guy" and "I'm Gonna Cry Till My Tears Run Dry," there's just no explaining why the brace of unissued sides here, including her version of the Chantels' "Maybe," the Pomus-Shuman co-authored "Think Again," and the Bacharach-David "Live Again," never made it out the door. The latter song, in particular, could have given Thomas the mainstream success that eluded her after 1963. As it is, there's not a song here that doesn't hold up magnificently five decades later, even as the whole collection only whets the appetite for more of Thomas' music. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 2006 | New Rounder

A rumor circulated after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast at the close of summer in 2005 that Louisiana soul great Irma Thomas was one of the missing. The rumor, fortunately, turned out to be false -- she was gigging at the time in Austin -- but Thomas' New Orleans home was completely destroyed. The shadow of Katrina hangs large over After the Rain, Thomas' first new album in six years, and several of the songs take on an added poignancy because of the tragedy, most tellingly the cover of Arthur Alexander's "In the Middle of It All" which opens this set and a stunning version of the traditional blues spiritual "Another Man Done Gone" with its telling line "another storm has come." It would be easy to call this album Thomas' response to the devastation, and to a great extent it is, but except for "Another Man Done Gone," all of the songs here were chosen for the recording sessions well before Katrina developed. Coincidence or not, though, the dominant image in these tracks is one of rain, of storms washing things away, and Thomas gives each song a kind of elegant resignation with her low-key vocal approach, until the whole album seems like one long whispered effort to recapture hope in the future. Storms wash things away, often things we dearly love, Thomas seems to be saying, and here is what we're left with, ourselves and our need to believe that there's a reason for all of the pain we're forced to carry. Mostly muted and acoustic, After the Rain cautiously stretches out like a slow train pulling away from the platform, and tracks like "Another Man Done Gone," the old blues nugget "Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor," and a stripped-down (just acoustic guitar, banjo, and percussion) version of Blind Willie Johnson's blues gospel classic "Soul of a Man" all share a certain restless searching for answers. Maybe there aren't any answers. Another storm has come. Not everything can be washed away. That, at least, is something to cling to, and After the Rain, in the end, is gently hopeful. © Steve Leggett /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 1992 | New Rounder

Like her first two efforts for Rounder, True Believer is a stellar collection of contemporary soul performed in the classic '50s New Orleans tradition. The difference is in conception. True Believer focuses on heartbreak songs, and there is genuine anguish in Irma Thomas' voice, making new songs by the likes of Dan Penn, Dr. John, Tony Joe White, Allen Toussaint, and Doc Pomus sound like instant classics. Another excellent effort from a woman who has plenty to her credit. © Thom Owens /TiVo
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Soul - Released August 8, 2000 | Rounder

Dan Penn is one of the great Southern soul songwriters, and Irma Thomas is one of the great soul singers, so devoting an entire album to Penn songs was a good idea. Actually, Penn didn't so much write the material as co-write it; he composed every track with one or more co-writers, with Thomas herself getting in on the act on a couple. Four of the 13 tunes are actually interpretations of songs that have been around for a long time (such as "I'm Your Puppet" and "Woman Left Lonely"), but otherwise they were done specifically for this album. So is the result godhead? No, though it's okay. Thomas sings very well -- it's been pretty rare that she hasn't sung well, on anything -- and has a good sense of staying within herself where a lot of singers would over-emote, as on "If You Want It, Come and Get It." Recorded in Memphis (noted frequent Penn associate Spooner Oldham plays keyboards on several cuts), there's a laid-back modern soul feel that gets too laid back at times and not fiery on enough occasions. It's respectable modern soul, slicker than purists would like, but not annoyingly so. The newly written songs are alright, but again not amazing. Thomas' vocals are the highlight, as they should be. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Blues - Released January 1, 1990 | Geffen

Thomas' brief liaison with Chess in 1967 saw her, like labelmates Laura Lee and Etta James, record in Muscle Shoals' Fame studios to tap into the southern/deep soul grooves that were one of the hottest tickets in soul music at the time. Commercially, these sessions (all recorded in June and July of '67) weren't a success. It's also fair to say that they don't rate as her finest work of the '60s; her early New Orleans sessions, along with her pop/rock sides of the mid-'60s, featured both stronger material and more suitable accompaniment. That's hardly a knock, though; these were solid soul performances paced by Thomas' habitual excellent, committed vocals. But there's a bit of a generic Stax/Volt feel, and not much of the material (which features several compositions by Otis Redding and the Spooner Oldham-Dan Penn team) leaps out and grabs you. It's still worth finding if you're an Irma fan, with 14 tracks that include several Chess singles and nine songs recorded for an unreleased LP that were previously unavailable in the United States. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 2009 | New Rounder

For a half century, Irma Thomas has been firmly established as the undisputed queen of New Orleans soul, and over the years has issued several standout recordings for the Rounder label. This collection features 15 of her very best works with no filler or sub-standard tracks, and includes three previously unissued tracks. Thomas taps on the deep wellspring of songwriters and performers from the Crescent City, including David Torkanowsky, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Doc Pomus, Doyle Bramhall II, Sonny Landreth, James Singleton, Stanton Moore, and Henry Butler among many others. This compilation, organized from her 25 years on the Rounder label, comes from six of her eleven albums, tacking on tunes from the Rhino collections I Believe to My Soul and 'Till The Night Is Gone; A Tribute to Doc Pomus, as well as the Nonesuch label collection Our New Orleans. The CD is highlighted by three selections from her all-time best and Grammy-award winning recording After the Rain, a post-Katrina anthem for the ages in and of itself. On a pure blues side, there's the raunchy, Bayou-humid thick "Another Man Done Gone" from After the Rain, and Bessie Smith's "Back Water Blues" via the compilation Our New Orleans -- both classics. Gospel-soul is always a part of the repertoire as heard on the confirmational tune "Let It Be Me" or "There Must Be a Better World Somewhere," co-written by Dr. John and Doc Pomus. Thomas specializes in downtrodden, brokenhearted songs such as the confused, sad ballad "What Can I Do?," "I Count the Tears" (from After the Rain) with a supportive chorus amid the gloomy mood, and the regretful ballad "Loving Arms." There's a funky, more commercial cover of the Purify Brothers' hit "I'm Your Puppet" with a horn section and popping electric bass guitar, a good-time rocker "The New Rules" affirming woman power, and the song of hope "River Is Waiting" with Butler's lively piano urging the band and singers to stand up and be counted. Thomas owns the kind of voice that is universally likable, never straining for high notes, unwavering in her soulful content, and as precise as any vocalist could dream of. She's simply precious, direct, stirring, and exciting no matter the style or lyric content. Though all of her individual CD's are easily recommended, this one is a must-have for collectors of greatest-hits packages, and especially those who for some reason have not yet discovered this brilliant American artist -- truly one of a kind. © Michael G. Nastos /TiVo
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Soul - Released April 22, 2016 | Rhino Atlantic

Atlantic Records was one of America's great soul labels, but as soul and R&B went through a transitional period in the early '70s, some of the label's stars found themselves lost in the shuffle, and while Atlantic doubtless had the best of intentions when they signed the great New Orleans soul diva Irma Thomas in 1971, they clearly didn't know what to do with her once they had her. Atlantic cut six sessions with Thomas over the course of ten months, but only two tracks were ever released, on a single issued by Atlantic's subsidiary label Cotillion Records. Full-Time Woman: The Lost Cotillion Album features both sides of that 45 as well as 13 other songs that the label felt weren't up to snuff. Heard decades later, it's hard to imagine what the Atlantic and Cotillion A&R staff were thinking -- while not every track here sounds like a smash, Thomas is in great voice throughout, the material is well suited to her abilities, and it's not hard to imagine "Waiting for Someone," "Our Love Don't Come That Easy," or "It's Eleven O'Clock (Do You Know Where Your Love Is)" racking up some radio play with their upbeat, dance-friendly arrangements and Thomas' outstanding vocals. And while her version of Styne and Cahn's "Time After Time" and the very dramatic string intro to "Shadow of the Sun" would be a bit much for most radio programmers, Thomas shows she works well in sophisticated settings, and her cover of Bobbie Gentry's "Fancy" is a tough, insouciant gem. Full-Time Woman isn't quite a lost classic, but these unreleased tracks confirm Thomas was still one of the great voices of Southern soul in the early '70s, and anyone who loved her latter-day work for Rounder is a sure bet to enjoy this. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Jazz - Released February 25, 2008 | Mardi Gras Records

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Blues - Released August 1, 2012 | Charly

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R&B - Released June 12, 2006 | Charly Records

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R&B - Released March 26, 1991 | Rounder

Irma Thomas has long been an institution in New Orleans-based R&B. This live CD is both a strong introduction to her powerful voice and a summation of her career up to 1990, mixing together remakes of some of her mid-'60s recordings with more current material. Cheered on by an enthusiastic crowd, Thomas sounds inspired and in her prime throughout the consistently passionate set. Of the highlights, "Hip Shakin' Mama" is a humorous blues, "I Needed Somebody" is especially soulful (if overly repetitive near its conclusion), "It's Raining" is memorable, and "Second Line Medley" effectively mixes in a touch of Dixieland with R&B. An excellent introduction to the talented Irma Thomas. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Blues - Released December 31, 2015 | Leisure Music Group

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R&B - Released February 11, 1997 | Rounder

The Story of My LIfe stands out among latter-day Irma Thomas albums not only because she gives a consistently excellent performance, but because the record boasts three new songs from Dan Penn, who wrote some of the greatest soul songs of the '60s. While his new songs ("Hold Me While I Cry," "I Count the Teardrops," "I Won't Cry for You") aren't quite as strong as his best, they are nevertheless wonderful contemporary soul numbers, and they help make the record, the remainder of which is comprised of covers and slightly weaker new numbers, one of Thomas' best latter-day albums. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 1988 | New Rounder

Irma Thomas deserves hits and wider exposure more than almost any other R&B vocalist you could name. While the material on this album is uneven, she retains her credibility regardless. It takes real guts to cover "Dancing in the Street" and "Baby I Love You," and even more talent not to be subsumed by their history. She's vibrant on "Old Records," hard-hitting on "You Don't Know Nothin' About Love," and poignant on "Sorry Wrong Number," "Sit Down and Cry," and "I'll Take Care of You." © Ron Wynn /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 1986 | Rounder

Irma Thomas balanced classic and contemporary sensibilities on this 1986 album. She did such songs as "Gonna Cry 'Til My Tears Run Dry" and "I Gave You Everything" from the 1960s, and also did more recent tunes, such as the title track and a good remake of "The Wind Beneath My Wings (Hero)." In the 1980s, there was little interest at urban contemporary stations in older, more soulful artists, and thus this worthy session got almost no attention outside New Orleans and the South. However, Irma Thomas can still sing with authority and quality. © Ron Wynn /TiVo
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Blues - Released January 1, 2008 | New Rounder

After a lifetime in the business, the Soul Queen of New Orleans finally won a Best Contemporary Blues Grammy in 2006 for After the Rain. As everyone knows, there's a lot more to Thomas than the blues. She's a powerful R&B belter, simmering soul singer, and all round entertainer as comfortable with a standard like "Stormy Weather" as she is with a new tune like Dr. John's "Be You." True to its punny title, Simply Grand features Thomas in the company of 13 piano players laying down accompaniment on the acoustic grand. The tunes are old and new, borrowed and blue, but Thomas makes them all her own. The most powerful tracks here showcase Thomas and a solo pianist, bringing the feel of a smoky late-night bar on the end of lonely street to life. "Be You" features Dr. John, who played piano on the very first Thomas recording session, 1959's "You Can Have My Husband (But Don't Mess with My Man)." Rebennack's piano on "Be You" is dramatic and funky, halfway between a Mardi Gras romp and a Sunday morning sermon. Written by Rebennack and Doc Pomus, it's a simple, soulful love song with a playful vocal by Thomas . On the Louis Jordan standard "If I Had Any Sense I'd Go Back Home" Mac and Thomas get down and dirty, with Thomas delivering a casual vocal that plays around with the beat, while Rebennack backs her with clusters of rippling arpeggios. "Somebody Told You," a sassy Allen Toussaint R&B number Thomas recorded back in 1962, gets a reprise (in the same key as the original) with John Medeski rolling out some stomping New Orleans fonk on his solo while Thomas testifies with her usual soulful intensity. Marcia Ball chose the Leon Russell tune "Same Old Blues" for the session and gives it a gospel twist that lets Thomas flex her moaning lower resister. Randy Newman supplies keys and his own "Think It's Going to Rain Today" to close the album. Thomas makes a bleak lyric even more forlorn with an understated sighing vocal that's downright heartbreaking. But the album also has it's sassy, uptempo moments. John Fogerty's "River Is Waiting" also has a celebratory churchy ambience with great backing vocals, Henry Butler's sanctified piano, and Thomas' testifying lifting the tune to heaven. "Early in the Morning," another Louis Jordan tune, a tongue in cheek tale of a woman looking for solace after being up all night, gets a humorous read from Thomas and pianist Tom McDermott. "Underground Stream" is a pop tune from pianist David Egan that combines R&B and gospel with a classic '40s pop feel. The chorus is instantly memorable, and if there was any justice in the world it'd be the monster hit Thomas deserves. © j. poet /TiVo
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Gospel - Released March 29, 1994 | Rounder

During R&B's glory years -- the 1950s, '60s and '70s -- the African-American church provided one great singer after another. Church choirs served as a magnificent training ground for so many of the great soul shouters, and it clearly had a positive effect on Irma Thomas (arguably the greatest female soul singer to come out of New Orleans). At 52, Thomas celebrated her gospel heritage with this solid, heartfelt CD. Thomas' voice had held up quite well since the 1960s, and she brings an impressive range and a seemingly endless supply of emotion to songs like "Where We'll Never Grow Old," "Ask What You Will" and "Careful Hands." Walk Around Heaven reminds us that as impressive as her contributions to secular soul have been, Thomas hasn't forgotten the church. © Alex Henderson /TiVo