CD Reissue Review: Irma Thomas – In Between Tears (Fungus/Alive, 1973/2013)
After relocating from New Orleans to Los Angeles, soul queen Irma Thomas largely disappeared from public view for a few years. But a series of singles produced by Jerry Williams (a.k.a. Swamp Dogg) on the indie Canyon, Roker and Fungus labels led to this eight-track release in 1973. Williams had proven himself a talented musician and producer, and in the latter capacity he leaves behind the absurdist humor of his own records to bring Thomas a helping of Southern soul and West Coast funk. Thomas’ new material, much of it written by Williams, has plenty of bite, but it’s more personal than broad. The wistful drama of her early Minit and Imperial sides had given way to something heavier, more worldly-wise, weary and womanly. When she sings of broken relationships, it’s from the experience of being spurned rather than the hope of being accepted, and when she takes stock of her life, she’s not afraid to highlight problems with the balance sheet. The transition from her earlier work is particularly apparent in a remake of “Wish Someone Would Care” which evolved from heartbroken yearning to mortally wounded. Alive’s 2013 reissue adds two bonus tracks, including the pre-album B-side “I’ll Do it All Over You.” This little-known album caught Thomas in a fiery and outspoken mood, and its return to print makes a welcome addition to her better-known releases.