There’s no mystery, yet still a mystery in Irma Thomas’s voice. The Soul Queen of New Orleans has been delighting audiences for 57 years, and today we applaud the fact that this soul survivor still sells out and serenades us as she celebrates her 75th year of life.
It’s an incredible legacy for someone that’s only visited the Billboard Top 40 Pop singles just once in her extensive career. From her beautifully rendered early singles for Ron and Minit Records that remind us what a bounty of talent the Bayou held in the early 60’s, to her pop polished efforts for Imperial Records in the middle of the decade, to her return to the South for efforts on Chess and labels beyond, she creates an otherworldly, relaxed and super intimate personal world with you the listener, whether on stage or on record.
I’ve gone with her second charted effort for her 3rd label, Imperial as a full demonstration of the beguiling ways she had with telling complex and nuanced stories. Often “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is” gets overshadowed about the strife around her version (which isn’t the original of “Time Is On My Side” (Credit goes to Kai Winding’s instrumental with Dee Dee Warwick, Cissy Houston and Sylvia Shemwell singing the background lines from lyric versions). But after the self penned angst of her Top 20 hit “I Wish Someone Would Care” the reflective ease and entrance to her more inner mind of the follow up single elevates Irma to nearly angelic status.
Indeed her singles and LPs for Imperial master the mix of her straightforward honesty yet robust complexity in some of the best Mid 60’s R&B settings. I highly recommend taking the time to relish her output from this era. Or catching her in concert and shouting out your requests (She’s always ready with her iPad full of lyrics!).