I Second That Emotion: Thelma Jones’ Columbia Debut Reissued On Big Break Label
If you guessed Thelma Jones, you go to the head of the soul music class! While at the small Barry Records label, it was Jones who introduced the song later made famous by Aretha Franklin, but for reasons lost to time, the singer was never able to turn her solid-gold pipes into chart success. Her discography isn’t very deep, but a career highlight of the North Carolina native can now be reappraised thanks to the team at the Cherry Red-affiliated Big Break Records label. Thelma Jones was the eponymous 1978 Columbia Records debut of the artist and her only full-length album until 2006. It’s been in expanded in a deluxe edition with three bonus tracks and is available now from BBR.
With a musical education rooted in the church, Jones was mentored by Big Maybelle. Among other accomplishments, Maybelle was the R&B singer and pianist who introduced “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” two years before Jerry Lee Lewis immortalized the song. Jones was equally comfortable with searing gospel and silky smooth soul, but none of her sides for Hy Weiss’ Barry label took off. Jones was signed in the early 1970s to Atlantic Records, even recording at Muscle Shoals, but that association was short-lived, and Columbia Records picked up the slack by signing Jones in 1975. After a Muscle Shoals session produced a debut single, “Salty Tears” b/w “You’re the Song (That I Can’t Stop Singing)” produced by Brad Shapiro (Millie Jackson, Gwen McCrae), Jones was assigned to Bert deCoteaux, who had created chart magic with The Main Ingredient. With deCoteaux at the helm, Jones showed off all sides of her voice on this impressive debut.
Hit the jump for more, including the full track listing and an order link!
Jones kicked off her long-playing solo debut by applying a funky disco beat to Smokey Robinson’s “I Second That Emotion” and applied the same up-tempo sizzle to Chip Taylor’s “Angel of the Morning” a few years before Juice Newton put her stamp on the song. Producer deCoteaux was clearly aiming for the sophisticated R&B market, and there’s an orchestral Philadelphia soul influence on Sam Dees’ “Lonely Enough to Try Anything.” Jones even takes on a bona fide Philly classic with her take on Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff’s “Now That We Found Love.” The producer and singer mold the O’Jays’ lush ballad into an upbeat dancefloor winner.
On Leon Ware’s “I Can Dream,” Jones brings smoldering soul to this mid-tempo ballad with a prominent horn part recalling the uptown soul of Dionne Warwick. Like Warwick, Jones could navigate both deep gospel-influenced soul and pure pop, and this also comes through on her lovely and tender reading of Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager’s “I’d Rather Leave While I’m in Love.” Her passionate reading of Van McCoy’s “Stay Awhile with Me” was far-removed from the disco era’s embrace of longtime soul man McCoy as the creator of “The Hustle.”
The ten tracks on the original LP included “Salty Tears,” but it has a different character than that of the other nine songs, all recorded in New York studios. Joining “Salty Tears” on BBR’s reissue is its original single B-side plus Sam Dees’ “Love, Look What You Got Me Into” (the B-side of “I’d Rather Leave While I’m in Love”) and the single version of “I Second That Emotion.” Like Dees’ “Lonely Enough to Try Anything,” his “Love, Look What You Got Me Into” finds Jones’ silky voice over a bed of smooth brass and strings.
Big Break’s reissue restores Thelma Jones to catalogue with its original sequence and artwork. Quentin Harrison provides new liner notes, and the album is housed in a Super Jewel Box as per BBR tradition. Ace Records’ 2007 Second Chance: The Complete Barry and Columbia Recordings did include the album tracks as part of its 21-track career anthology; that compilation did not include the single version of “I Second That Emotion” that’s present here. Thelma Jones may not have attracted the audience it deserved because she lacked a strong musical identity and identifiable sound, the kind developed over a long-term association with a sympathetic producer. Think of Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach/Hal David or Aretha Franklin and Tom Dowd/Jerry Wexler, just to name two of soul music’s greatest teams. But Jones and producers Shapiro and deCoteaux indeed created music that has stood the test of time, with particular emphasis on Jones’ gifts for interpreting composers as different as Leon Ware and Peter Allen. If you’re interested in discovering Thelma Jones, you can order below!
Thelma Jones, Thelma Jones (Columbia LP JC 35485, 1978 – reissued Big Break Records BBR CDBBR 0106, 2012)
- I Second That Emotion
- Lonely Enough to Try Anything
- Now That We’ve Found Love
- Angel of the Morning
- I Can Dream
- How Long
- Stay Awhile with Me
- I’d Rather Leave While I’m in Love
- I Want What You Want
- Salty Tears
- You’re the Song (That I Can’t Stop Singing) (Columbia single 3-10403-B, 1976)
- Love, Look What You Got Me Into (Columbia single 3-10675, 1978)
- I Second That Emotion (Single) (Columbia 3-10814, 1978)