She first entered a recording studio in 1960 and during the first half of the 1960s, placed a number of singles on the pop and Rhythm & Blues charts. For some reason she was never able to maintain her commercial success and spent the next 50 years recording for a number of major and minor labels. Some validation came in 2007 when her album After the Rain won the 2007 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
During the early 1970s Thomas signed with the Cotillion label. She recorded 15 tracks during six sessions, 1971-1972. The only two tracks to see the light of day were “Full Time Woman” and “She’s Taken My Part,” which were released as a single in 1971. The other 13 tracks remained in the vaults until now.
Real Gone Music has collected all her material recorded for the label and released them under the title Full Time Woman: The Lost Cotillion Album.
What we have is a somewhat disjointed affair, as most of the songs were recorded as potential singles. While the individual tracks are fine examples of 1960s rhythm & blues, they remain independent of each other and should be approached as a collection of singles, even though they were not released.
Why the title track didn’t become a hit remains a mystery. Her voice has a pure and soulful quality, as it rises above some female backing singers. The simple ballad always keeps the focus upon her voice.
Thomas is an artist who can take songs from different styles and transform them. “Fancy” was a Bobbie Gentry country hit and “Time After Time” is from the Great American Songbook, but she is able to adapt both songs to her unique brand of rhythm & blues. “No Name” and “Adam and Eve” were recorded in Philadelphia and bear the Philly soul imprint.
It’s always interesting to hear tracks that were never released. Irma Thomas’ material probably would not have changed the course of soul music and is a little dated today but remains a good example of the soul sound of the early 1970s. Full Time Woman: The Lost Cotillion Album is worth a listen for any fan of Thomas or the era in music.