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22.8.08

Irma Thomas




Irma Thomas - Simply Grand - 2008 - Rounder

On this brilliant album,Thomas' longtime producer, Scott Billington, pairs Thomas' lush, earthy and full-note round vocals with many great pianists including Dr. John, Ellis Marsalis, Norah Jones, and John Medeski. This album is a beautiful mix of blues, R&B ,jazz, and ballads, and is HR by A.O.O.F.C. Buy her Grammy-winning "After the Rain" album.

TRACK DETAILS

1.River Is Waiting - (featuring Henry Butler)

2.If I Had Any Sense I'd Go Back Home - (featuring Dr. John)

3.Too Much Thinking - (featuring Jon Cleary)

4.Early In The Morning - (featuring Tom McDermott)

5.What Can I Do - (featuring David Torkanowsky)

6.Underground Stream - (featuring David Egan)

7.Thinking About You - (featuring Norah Jones)

8.Be You - (featuring Dr. John)

9.This Bitter Earth - (featuring Ellis Marsalis)

10.Cold Rain - (featuring David Torkanowsky)

11.Somebody Told You - (featuring John Medeski)

12.Overrated - (featuring Davell Crawford)

13.Same Old Blues - (featuring Marcia Ball)

14.I Think It's Going To Rain Today - (featuring Randy Newman

REVIEWS

Irma Thomas is one of the great R&B and soul singers of New Orleans; her last album, After the Rain, was a powerful tribute to the victims of Hurricane Katrina thanks to the strength of her vocals and the straightforward, uncluttered backing. She continues in the same style here, mostly backed only by piano. Now in her 60s, she has a voice that is as understated, easy and direct as ever, capable of switching between rhythmic blues, gospel and the occasional ballad. The celebrity pianist guests include Randy Newman, Marcia Ball, Norah Jones and that other New Orleans legend, Dr John. He played on her first recording 49 years ago, and joins her now for a couple of gently powerful blues workouts. Concept albums like this can be a mess, but this one justifies its title: it's both simple and grand. © Robin Denselow The Guardian, Friday August 8 2008

Here’s a cool concept. On Simply Grand, soul veteran Irma Thomas is paired with 13 of the best pianists around in an all-acoustic setting. Prominent ivory tinklers include Norah Jones, John Medeski, Marcia Ball, Randy Newman and Big Easy homeboys Ellis Marsalis, Jon Cleary and Dr. John. The latter, the only pianist here featured twice, is typically fluent on “If I Had Any Sense I’d Go Back Home.” The album’s approach complements her strong and soulful voice perfectly, and the choice of material is similarly adept. A new tune from Burt Bacharach and Steve Krikorian, “What Can I Do,” is featured, as is an unrecorded Doc Pomus/Dr. John number, “Be You.” Thomas draws from gospel (“Underground Stream”), blues (“Same Old Blues”), jazz (“This Bitter Earth”) and soul, and is almost always convincing (though “What Can I Do” verges on being overwrought). At 67, the Grammy-winning “Soul Queen of New Orleans” remains at the top of her game, as shown on the soul-stirring closing track, a lovely cover of Randy Newman classic “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today.” This fine disc deserves to get as much attention as recent efforts from peers like Mavis Staples and Bettye LaVette. (Rounder) © Kerry Doole, © www.exclaim.ca/

The Deal: The Soul Queen of New Orleans retains her title. The Good: Irma Thomas' latest, Simply Grand, might be a little more low-key than some of her past work, but with that voice, it's enough to keep you vibrating. It's a concept album, with each cut accompanied by a different pianist. Although some of the contributors including Marcia Ball and Dr. John have performed vocally with Thomas in the past, on this outing it's just her solo vocals. It's more than enough. Nobody else can wring the emotion out of a lyric like Irma. On "Same Old Blues" she's got the sub woofers thrumming with her low-down, sexy, soulful crooning. Thomas reveals a seldom seen side on some cuts, sounding Ella Fitzgerald-like on "This Bitter Earth," accompanied by Ellis Marsalis. For those who came for her trademark queenly soul, Thomas delivers on "Thinking About You." It's enough to keep even the glorious voice of Norah Jones quiet, only contributing piano on the cut. But it's on the bluesy heartbreakers that Thomas really shines. The gospel-tinged "Cold Rain" with David Torkanowsky delivers the soulful sermon that fans have come to expect of her. And if its gospel you're after, Henry Butler helps Thomas have church on "River is Waiting." "Somebody Told You," with Medeski Martin and Wood's John Medeski is Thomas at her rocking best. The only problem is it cries out for a full band behind it to really take it over the top. It'd be great to see her do it live with her band punching it up. The Bad: The words bad and Irma Thomas don't belong in the same sentence. Never have, never will. The Verdict: Make sure you leave plenty of room in your Irma Thomas collection –– after 50 years in the business, Thomas proves she still has more to deliver. © Grant Britt, © 2008 Creative Loafing Media All Rights Reserved

New Orleans is a longtime piano stronghold. So Irma Thomas, one of the city’s definitive singers, features 13 pianists on “Simply Grand” (Rounder): locals like Henry Butler, Ellis Marsalis and Davell Crawford, and kindred spirits like Norah Jones and John Medeski. Ms. Thomas sings warmly and forthrightly amid the two-fisted rumbas, R&B vamps, jazz ballads and barrelhouse flourishes. And without getting heavy-handed the song choices haven’t forgotten what happened to her beloved city: a gospelly “Cold Rain” with David Torkanowsky, a spooky take on “Early in the Morning” with Tom McDermott, “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” with Randy Newman and two wry, intimate duets with Dr. John: “Be You” and “If I Had Any Sense I’d Go Back Home.” © JON PARELES, Published: August 8, 2008, © The New York Times Company

What's the difference between soul and R&B? Live instruments. Their presence or absence usually mark the gap between the two genres, but there is also a languor associated with soul not customarily found in the hit-seeking missiles of contemporary R&B. By those measures, then, Irma Thomas is undoubtedly a soul singer. The Soul Queen of New Orleans is accompanied by an all-star cast of pianists on her new album, "Simply Grand," including Dr. John, Randy Newman, and Norah Jones, but the only star on display is Thomas herself. "Simply Grand" gives Thomas room to unwind, and she makes the most of it. Rather than show off her pipes, Thomas keeps an even keel and a measured tempo. Songs like "Too Much Thinking" and "River Is Waiting" are supper-club music in the best sense -calm, sophisticated, and charming. Keeping it simple, Thomas lets the pianists' fingers do the walking, lying back in the cut and riding the ululations of the piano like a blues singer playing off his guitar. And when Thomas does let loose, as she briefly does toward the conclusion of the magnificent "What Can I Do," the result is spine-tinglingly gorgeous. "Simply Grand" is an album whose charms are too subtle to catch on the first spin or third, but enough listens will make it clear that the album's title is nothing more than a statement of fact © Saul Austerlitz, © Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company

Back in May of 2007, Irma Thomas gave a gripping performance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. She'd been "camping out," as she put it, in her mostly renovated house in New Orleans East, an area particularly hard-hit by the 2005 floods. She was irked by negative reports about New Orleans, "some of them from folks who haven't been down here to see all the good things that are going on." She'd given up on her nightclub, the Lion's Den, but remained faithful to the First African Baptist Church choir, which, she pointed out, "was back and singing by November after the storm." In her many interviews since Katrina, Thomas's statements have been clear and direct, unafraid to address sadness and pain, but always tinged with optimism. The same can be said of her singing throughout the years; those qualities infused her Grammy-winning last CD, 2006's After the Rain. This new one's even better. A simple idea animates Simply Grand's 14 tracks: Bring Thomas together with a dozen pianists, all Crescent City natives, transplants, or fans. Her voice is rich, finely textured, and more expressive now than when it hit r&b charts in the 1960s. But her recordings can sound monotonous. That's not true here, though, as she's urged on by the predilections of her accompanists, not to mention the adaptive skills of bassist James Singleton and drummer Raymond Weber on most tracks. Thomas's church roots are planted deep in "River Is Waiting," with Henry Butler's improvisations responding to Thomas's call, his loping rhythm lending a South African inflection. And they're subtly implied on "Overrated," a soft-edged ballad with Davell Crawford. Thomas's authoritative r&b croon bounces funkily via John Cleary on "Too Much Thinking," communes with the spirit of Professor Longhair as conjured by Tom McDermott on "Early in the Morning," and drives hard on a remake of "Somebody Told You" with John Medeski. There are less likely pairings too, including Norah Jones (a bit too placid) and Ellis Marsalis (elegant and sharp). But Thomas sounds freest and swings hardest on two duets with Dr. John (especially the shimmying "Be You"), and Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" makes for a perfect closer: Newman plays it at a crawling tempo, nearly rubato, distilling tenderness and vulnerability in Thomas's voice to striking effect. "Human kindness is overflowing," she sings each time the chorus comes around, drawing conviction as much from the life she's lived during the past three years as from the songs she's sung for nearly 50. © Larry Blumenfeld, Tuesday, August 12th 2008, 2008 Village Voice LLC

"Simply Grand" would fit as an album title for Irma Thomas on merits alone. At age 67, and ready to celebrate her 50th anniversary as a recording artist in 2009, the woman known as the Soul Queen of New Orleans is a national treasure. More than that, she remains at the top of her talent: If anything, her lush voice, with its earthy tones and full-note roundness, has grown more nuanced and emotionally resonant with time. But "Simply Grand" also describes the collection's setting. On her follow-up to the 2006's Grammy-winning "After the Rain," she pairs off with a series of pianists accompanying her on a concert grand. Some are famous, such as Norah Jones, who plays while Thomas performs a version of Jones' hit, "Thinking About You," turning it into a wise lament. Others are New Orleans heroes, such as Ellis Marsalis, father of jazz stars Wynton and Branford, who supports Thomas on the stunning ballad, "This Bitter Earth." The piano setting brings out Thomas' jazz side, especially on "What Can I Do" and "Cold Rain," both performed by Crescent City jazz man David Torkanowsky. She also celebrates her heritage on two funky R&B tunes backed by Dr. John, including the outstanding "Be You," an unrecorded tune co-written by the late Doc Pomus. CHECK THIS OUT: Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going To Rain Today" has been recorded often, and by such greats as Nina Simone and Dusty Springfield, but it's never sounded more powerful or more poignant than on this voice-and-piano duet by Thomas and Newman. © Michael Mccall, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, © The Canadian Press, 2008

BIO

The unrivaled Soul Queen of New Orleans -- a title officially bestowed by local officials, no less -- Irma Thomas ranks among Crescent City R&B's greatest and most enduring musical ambassadors, never enjoying the coast-to-coast commercial success of contemporaries like Aretha Franklin and Etta James but nevertheless breathing the same rarified air in the minds of many soul music aficionados. Born Irma Lee in Ponchatoula, LA, on February 18, 1941, as a teen she sang with a Baptist church choir, even auditioning for Specialty Records as a 13 year old. A year later, she gave birth to her first child, marrying the baby's father and subsequently giving birth to another child before the union dissolved. At 17 she wed again, this time to one Andrew Thomas, having two more babies before she again divorced, all before the age of 20. Keeping her second ex-husband's surname, Thomas went to work as a waitress at New Orleans' Pimlico Club, occasionally sitting in with bandleader Tommy Ridgley. When the club's owner dismissed her for spending more time singing than waiting tables, Ridgley agreed to help her land a record deal, setting up auditions with the local Minit and Ronn labels. The latter issued her saucy debut single, "You Can Have My Husband (But Don't Mess with My Man)," in the spring of 1960, and the record quickly reached the number 22 spot on the Billboard R&B chart. However, Thomas accused Ronn of withholding royalties and after one more effort for the label, "A Good Man," she briefly landed with the Bandy label, releasing 1961's "Look Up" before relocating to Minit. Thomas' first Minit release, "Girl Needs Boy," inaugurated a collaboration with songwriter and producer Allen Toussaint that would continue throughout her tenure with the label; although none of her six Minit singles were significant hits, each was brilliant, in particular 1962's "It's Raining" (memorably revived by filmmaker Jim Jarmusch for his cult classic Down by Law) and the following year's "Ruler of My Heart," reworked by Otis Redding as "Pain in My Heart." Imperial Records acquired Minit in 1963, and Thomas' contract was included in the deal. Her first single for the label, the starkly intimate "Wish Someone Would Care," capitalized on Imperial's deep pockets to vault into the Billboard pop Top 20, while its Jackie DeShannon/Sharon Sheeley-penned B-side, "Break-a-Way," proved a massive hit on New Orleans radio, later accumulating cover versions by singers from Beryl Marsden to Tracey Ullman. The follow-up, "Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)," was even better, a magnificent ballad featuring one of Thomas' most finely wrought vocals, but was not a hit. Likewise, its Jerry Ragovoy-penned B-side, "Time Is on My Side," had its fans, not the least of them the Rolling Stones, who scored a massive hit with a virtual note-for-note cover version. Thomas closed out 1964 with a pair of minor chart entries, "Times Have Changed" and "He's My Guy," both of them written by Van McCoy; for subsequent efforts including "I'm Gonna Cry Till My Tears Run Dry" and "The Hurt's All Gone," she even traveled to New York City to record with hitmaker Ragovoy, but despite the pedigrees of those involved, her commercial momentum dissipated, and following the chart failure of 1966's James Brown-produced "It's a Man's-Woman's World," Imperial terminated her contract. Thomas next signed with Chess Records, traveling to Rick Hall's legendary Muscle Shoals studio Fame to cut 1967's "Cheater Man." Neither that record nor its follow-up, "A Woman Will Do Wrong Charted," had much success, but her third Chess single, a reading of Redding's "Good to Me," was a minor R&B chart entry in 1968. It was not enough to extend Thomas' relationship with Chess, however, and she spent the next several years outside the studio. In the aftermath of the devastating Hurricane Camille, she relocated her family to Oakland, CA, in 1969, later settling in Los Angeles. During this time Thomas supported her children by working at retailer Montgomery Ward, resurfacing on record with 1971's Cotillion label release "Full Time Woman." Later that year, she also issued "Save a Little Bit" on the tiny Canyon label, followed in 1972 by "I'd Do It All for You." Thomas returned in 1973 with "These Four Walls" on Roker, followed by three singles on the horribly named Fungus label: "You're the Dog (I Do the Barking Myself)," "In Between Tears," and "Coming from Behind." She relocated back to New Orleans in 1976, a year later issuing "Hittin' on Nothin'" and a re-recorded "Breakaway" on Maison de Soul; in 1980, Thomas surfaced on the RCS label with Safe with Me, an ill-conceived LP that sought to update her sound to approximate disco-era R&B. It was the last record she would make for six years. In the interim Thomas accelerated her live schedule. With husband/manager Emile Jackson, she opened the Lion's Den, a New Orleans club where she regularly headlined, and she also toured Europe, where her records still merited regular airplay. In 1985, she was approached by Rounder Records producer Scott Billington to make a comeback record. The New Rules appeared the following year, earning solid reviews and selling respectably. The Way I Feel hit stores in 1988, and with 1991's Live! Simply the Best, Thomas earned her first-ever Grammy nomination. The following year she issued True Believer, and in 1993 released her first gospel effort, Walk Around Heaven. She waited until 1997 to release her next secular record, The Story of My Life, blaming the delay in interviews on her difficulty in finding material appropriate to her age and sensibility. Thomas shifted gears radically for 1998's Sing It!, which paired her with devout fans Marcia Ball and Tracy Nelson; two years later saw the release of My Heart's in Memphis: The Songs of Dan Penn, with Thomas tackling both Penn classics ("I'm Your Puppet," "Woman Left Lonely") and original compositions. After the Rain, released in 2006, was nominated for a Best Contemporary Blues Album Grammy. © Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide

BIO (Wikipedia)

Irma Thomas (b. February 18, 1941, Ponchatoula, Louisiana) is a Grammy Award winning soul and rhythm and blues singer from New Orleans. She is known as the "Soul Queen of New Orleans." Thomas is a contemporary of Aretha Franklin and Etta James, but never experienced their level of commercial success; still, she has a large cult following among soul aficionados. In 2007, she won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album for "After The Rain", her first Grammy in an acclaimed career spanning over 45 years. Born Irma Lee, as a teen she sang with a Baptist church choir, auditioning for Specialty Records as a 13 year old. By the age of 19 she had been married twice and had four children. Keeping her second ex-husband's surname, she worked as a waitress in New Orleans, occasionally singing with bandleader Tommy Ridgley, who helped her land a record deal with the local Ronn label. Her first single, "You Can Have My Husband (But Don't Mess With My Man)," was released in spring 1960, and reached the number 22 spot on the Billboard R&B chart. She then began recording on the Minit label, working with songwriter and producer Allen Toussaint on songs including “It’s Raining” and “Ruler of my Heart”, which was later reinterpreted by Otis Redding as "Pain In My Heart". Imperial Records acquired Minit in 1963, and a string of successful releases followed. These included "I Wish Someone Would Care” (her biggest national hit), its B-side " Break-a-Way” (later covered by Tracey Ullman among others), "Anyone Who Knows What Love Is”, and "Time Is on My Side" (a song previously recorded by Kai Winding, and later by the Rolling Stones). Although her first four Imperial singles all charted on Billboard's pop chart, later releases were less successful, and, unlike her contemporaries Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and Dionne Warwick she never managed to cross over into mainstream commercial success. She recorded for Chess Records in 1967/68 with some success, the Otis Redding song "Good To Me" reaching the R&B chart. She then relocated to California, releasing records on various small labels, before returning to Louisiana, and in the early 1980s opened her own club, the Lion's Den. After several years’ break from recording, she was signed by Rounder Records, and in 1991 earned her first-ever Grammy nomination for "Live! Simply the Best", recorded in San Francisco. She subsequently released a number of traditional gospel albums, together with more secular recordings. The album “Sing It !” was nominated for a Grammy in 1999. Thomas is still active as a performer, appearing annually at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. She reigned as Queen of the Krewe du Vieux for the 1998 New Orleans Mardi Gras season. She often headlined at her own club, which is now out of business due to the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Thomas is reportedly currently a resident of Gonzales, Louisiana, 60 miles from New Orleans and is said to have plans to eventually return to New Orleans.

4 comments:

drfeelgoed said...

brilliant album, i'm going to listen to it a lot!

A.O.O.F.C said...

Hi drfeelgoed. How are you? Thanks for comment. Irma's got it all. Have you heard her "After The Rain" album? Brilliant!...Talk to you soon

Anonymous said...

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A.O.O.F.C said...

Hi, KODRA. Thank you for kind words. Try

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Simply_Grand__2008__.rar

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