Thelma Jones: Second Chance - The Complete Barry & Columbia Recordings (CD)
(Ace Records) 22 Tracks - 1967-1978 -
Aretha Franklin scored a smash hit in 1968 with The House That Jack Built. Harlem-based Thelma Jones recorded the song first. And she did it better. It was a seal of approval when Aretha covered you; witness her versions of Ray Charles, Baby Washington, Johnny Ace, Dionne Warwick and Ben E. King songs. Thelma was in great company.
Her recording career came in two bursts: ten tracks cut for Barry Records in 1966 through 1968, and a dozen for Columbia a decade later. The oft-funky Barry sides are infused with gospel fervour (Thelma began her singing career in church, natch), while the Columbia decks are glossy, commercial and occasionally disco-fied (in a good way).
Yet the two phases sit side-by-side very happily on this CD, thanks to the common denominator of Thelma’s fabulous vocals.
Her first Barry single, Never Leave Me, reached the R&B Top 50 early in 1967, prompting Atlantic Records’ Jerry Wexler to go into print saying how much he loved it. (Recommendations rarely carry more weight than that.) The song is slightly reminiscent of Maxine Brown’s All In My Mind, while Thelma sounds not unlike such gospel-to-soul crossover exemplars as Sylvia Shemwell of the Sweet Inspirations or Mitty Collier. (Who mentioned weighty recommendations?) The House That Jack Built was her fourth 45.
Maybe it was Jerry Wexler who turned Aretha onto the song, or perhaps it was Cissy Houston, who happened to lead the backing vocalists on Thelma’s version and likewise for the Queen Of Soul.
Some of Thelma’s fast sides are revered by funk aficionados, others by northern soul buffs, but her ballads were magnificent. With one hit in the bag, Barry Records threw caution to the wind for her follow-up, the massively produced Gotta Find A Way, which found her backed by what sounds like a complete symphony orchestra, not to mention a drummer on steroids.
Fans of Garnet Mimms, Lorraine Ellison and sanctified soul in general will eat it up.
After an eight-year hiatus, Thelma reappeared in 1976 with Salty Tears, a beautiful ballad by the crack songwriting team of Teddy Randazzo and Victoria Pike. Eleven years after her first hit, Thelma brushed the R&B charts for a second and final time with a revival of the Miracles’ I Second That Emotion. Columbia released her eponymous album that same year.
Since then, nothing. What a shame.
This CD contains Thelma’s complete recorded output (save for an obscure gospel single made when she was a kid and some aborted sides waxed for Atlantic at Muscle Shoals in the late 60s – yes, Wexler liked her so much he signed her up). With a catalogue that includes Doris Duke, Irma Thomas, Carolyn Franklin, Loleatta Holloway, Maxine Brown, Bettye Swann, Jean Wells and Baby Washington, the Kent label is gradually amassing an impressive roster of soul heroines. Thelma Jones is again in great company. She deserves it.
Article properties: Thelma Jones: Second Chance - The Complete Barry & Columbia Recordings (CD)
Thelma Jones has had a long and illustrious recording career. She began singing while still a child with the family gospel recording group, The McDaniel Singers. 'Little David Play On Your Harp' and 'God Put A Rainbow In The Sky' were two recordings released at that time featuring Thelma as lead singer. She later moved to R&B when she recorded the original version of 'The House That Jack Built', along with 'Mr. Fix It', 'Souvenirs Of A Heartbreak' and 'Oh, Here Come The Heartbreak' for Barry Records between 1966 and 1968. Her following realease was 'Salty Tears,' a great tearful ballad that really put Thelma on map. The self titled album 'Thelma Jones' was originally recorded for Columbia in 1978 (re-masterd and re-released in 2005), and contains Smokey Robinson's 'I Second That Emotion'. In 1987 Barry Records released the single 'Never Leave Me.' She has followed up with several more recordings, the last being the critically acclaimed CD 'Law Of Old' in 2002.
As a live performer, Thelma has captivated audiences the world over with her electrifying vocal stylings. She is equally comfortable singing Gospel, Blues, Soul/R&B or Jazz. "It's the song that counts," says Thelma, "a good song is a good song in any genre."