Irma Thomas – 1966 – Take A Look

The “Take a Look” album is probably better sequenced and selected than her first album, and weirdly, a bunch of Irma’s best performances of the era didn’t make it to either of these albums back then (four great songs weren’t released at all until 1992). Most of this material is in a different, more bombastic, high-production vein than her earlier New Orleans-styled stuff for Minit. You will want to do some additional exploring. Irma embodies the best aspects of the ‘gospel/girl group’ styles but is never self-indulgent or distracting here. She soars. 

Tracks
A1 Take A Look 2:57
A2 Teasing, But You’re Pleasing 1:42
A3 I Haven’t Got Time To Cry 2:38
A4 You Don’t Miss A Good Thing (Untill It’s Gone)2:20
A5 Some Things You Never Get Used To 2:40
A6 Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)2:58
B1 It’s Starting To Get To Me Now 2:21
B2 Times Have Changed 2:28
B3 He’s My Guy 2:35
B4 Baby, Don’t Look Down 2:30
B5 What Are You Trying To Do 2:14
B6 Wait, Wait, Wait 2:38

Although it should have been issued the previous year and Imperial Records even had a catalog designation reserved for the project (LP-9275), Irma Thomas’ second long-player for the label also turned out to be her last. The vocalists professional relationship with songwriter/producer Allen Toussaint had been established several years earlier on the R&B hit “It’s Raining.” Here, he supplies a third of the disc’s material beginning with the optimistic and stylishly orchestrated “Take a Look” — giving the album both its title track and opening selection. The upbeat and sassy “Teasing, But Your Pleasing” is another Toussaint-penned tune and exemplifies the symbiosis between the artist and composer as the catchy melody and Thomas’ carefree delivery are a custom fit. That certainly isn’t to imply that she has lost any of her emotive capacity, as she so aptly demonstrates throughout the effort, and nowhere more so than “I Haven’t Got Time to Cry” or Jerry Ragavoy’s “You Don’t Miss a Good Thing (Until It’s Gone)” — arguably William Bell’s blueprint for “You Don’t Miss Your Water“. 

Thomas resonates a similar sensitivity on “It’s Starting to Get to Me Now” sounding like a Dionne Warwick protégé thanks to the Burt Bacharach-like chord progressions and writing style of up-and-coming songsmith and producer Van McCoy. Still nearly a decade away from creating his own hits — most notably the chart-topping dance monster “The Hustle” — McCoy contributed a total of four selections. While his arrangement of “Some Things You Never Get Used To” could be an homage to the Bacharach/David classic “Walk on By,” the edgier “He’s My Guy” is an ideal match of singer and song as Thomas’ attitude seethes right below the surface of her graceful delivery. Fans of Northern U.K. soul often rank the infectiously buoyant “Baby, Don’t Look Down” among their favorite discotheque spins dedicated to preserving the spirit of the music and times. Wrapping up Take a Look are a final pair from Toussaint with the cheery and definitely Motown-inspired “What Are You Trying to Do“. “Wait, Wait, Wait” on the other hand, is unique as it reflects Toussaint’s early influence and love of ’40s and ’50s country and western music. One could easily hear Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, or Loretta Lynn lending their respective intonations to it.