Irma Thomas

Full-Time Woman: The Lost Cotillion Album

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Full-Time Woman: The Lost Cotillion Album Review

by Mark Deming

Atlantic Records was one of America's great soul labels, but as soul and R&B went through a transitional period in the early '70s, some of the label's stars found themselves lost in the shuffle, and while Atlantic doubtless had the best of intentions when they signed the great New Orleans soul diva Irma Thomas in 1971, they clearly didn't know what to do with her once they had her. Atlantic cut six sessions with Thomas over the course of ten months, but only two tracks were ever released, on a single issued by Atlantic's subsidiary label Cotillion Records. Full-Time Woman: The Lost Cotillion Album features both sides of that 45 as well as 13 other songs that the label felt weren't up to snuff. Heard decades later, it's hard to imagine what the Atlantic and Cotillion A&R staff were thinking -- while not every track here sounds like a smash, Thomas is in great voice throughout, the material is well suited to her abilities, and it's not hard to imagine "Waiting for Someone," "Our Love Don't Come That Easy," or "It's Eleven O'Clock (Do You Know Where Your Love Is)" racking up some radio play with their upbeat, dance-friendly arrangements and Thomas' outstanding vocals. And while her version of Styne and Cahn's "Time After Time" and the very dramatic string intro to "Shadow of the Sun" would be a bit much for most radio programmers, Thomas shows she works well in sophisticated settings, and her cover of Bobbie Gentry's "Fancy" is a tough, insouciant gem. Full-Time Woman isn't quite a lost classic, but these unreleased tracks confirm Thomas was still one of the great voices of Southern soul in the early '70s, and anyone who loved her latter-day work for Rounder is a sure bet to enjoy this.

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