Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Irma Thomas

  • Safe With Me [RCS, 1979] B+
  • Time Is on My Side--The Best of Irma Thomas Volume 1 [EMI, 1993] ***
  • Sweet Soul Queen of New Orleans: The Irma Thomas Collection [Razor & Tie, 1997] A-
  • After the Rain [Rounder, 2006] Dud

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Safe With Me [RCS, 1979]
I assume they reprised the title song because they thought it was a sure shot, but they miscalculated, which is too bad--this album could use a sure shot. Thomas is deep, the material intelligent, and the mix of soul and disco disarmingly offhand. I like every cut except the gris-gris-for-tourists "Princess La-La." But I don't love a one of 'em. B+

Time Is on My Side--The Best of Irma Thomas Volume 1 [EMI, 1993]
betta than Etta? ("Two Winters Long," "Some Things You Never Get Used To") ***

Sweet Soul Queen of New Orleans: The Irma Thomas Collection [Razor & Tie, 1997]
Born in 1941, Thomas had four kids and two husbands behind her by the time of her brief pop run in 1964, but you'd never have known how hard her life had been. She was too busy trying to sing the songs right, and that didn't mean interpreting them, much less infusing them with her own experience--it meant nailing a commercial sound. Blessed with a surpassingly warm voice even for New Orleans, she took more naturally to the cockeyed optimism Allen Toussaint can't repress than to the darker moods of the early soul songs she tried. But just to be on the safe side she put happy and sad into everything, as on Toussaint's oh so hummable "Take a Look"--which comes out far more serious and sincere, and hence effective, than the wedding-day bliss of its lyric requires. It's her tractability before strong material--better chosen here than on EMI's already deleted 1992 best-of ("Volume 1," ha)--that makes her so winsome. And it was her determination to please that eventually turned her into a blatantly ordinary local institution. Believe me--she was more interesting when she didn't know what she was doing. A-

After the Rain [Rounder, 2006] Dud

Further Notes:

Everything Rocks and Nothing Ever Dies [1990s]