Powerhouse vocalist Thelma Houston has long had a champion in SoulMusic Records. In 2012, the label issued an expanded edition of her debut album (and second overall) for Motown’s California-based MoWest label, and in 2013, SoulMusic reissued both of her duet albums with the “Ice Man” Jerry Butler. The label has just revisited 1976’s Any Way You Like It, the album that made a superstar out of Houston thanks to a little anthem called “Don’t’ Leave Me This Way.”
Though Berry Gordy’s West Coast operation yielded more unissued albums than issued ones, 1972’s Thelma Houston was one LP that made the cut for release. It was a prestige effort for MoWest, with productions and songs from many Motown staff favorites. On the songwriting side, Patti Dahlstrom and the team of Nick Zesses and Dino Fekaris made contributions, while the album’s tracks were produced by Mel Larson and Jerry Marcellino, Al Cleveland and Eddie Langford, and Joe Porter. Arrangements came from heavyweights like Gene Page, Michael Omartian and Artie Butler. Thelma Houston was a worthy successor to the singer’s Dunhill debut Sunshower, which had been produced and largely written by Jimmy Webb, but failed to impress commercially.
Following her album’s release, Houston toiled at Motown making singles with various producers, some of which were included on SoulMusic’s reissue of Thelma Houston. More of these never-on-CD tracks make their worldwide CD debut here, including a pair by Michael Masser and Gerry Goffin from 1973: the original version of “Do You Know Where You’re Going To” (later the Diana Ross-sung theme from Mahogany) with its lyrics about a mental institution and a rather more ominous arrangement; and “Together.” Bizarrely, this single was only released in New Zealand! Still, Thelma re-upped her deal with Motown in 1974, taking time off in 1975 to record a one-off album for Sheffield Labs, I’ve Got the Music in Me.
In 1976, Motown pulled the trigger on a second album for Thelma, assembling it from the various sessions she had undertaken since her first LP with producers including the teams of Hal Davis and Michael Sutton, and Clayton Ivey and Terry Woodford. Though most of the songs were originals, there were three choice “covers”: the standard “If It’s the Last Thing I Do,” Stevie Wonder’s “I Don’t Know Why I Love You,” and a song called “Don’t Leave Me This Way” that began life as an album track for Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. The Kenny Gamble/Leon Huff/Cary Gilbert song from the Blue Notes’ Wake Up Everybody album was recorded by producer Hal Davis and assigned to Thelma; recollections vary as to how she ended up with the song (some claim Diana Ross was its first intended recipient) but the end result was that Thelma recorded the song and ended up with a chart-topping smash hit and a Grammy Award!
SoulMusic’s expanded edition adds six bonus tracks. In addition to the two Masser/Goffin single sides, you’ll hear the U.S. single version of “Don’t Leave Me This Way” plus the movie theme “One Out of Every Six” (in its “censored” version, as master tapes reportedly don’t exist for the “uncensored” variation), the 1974 A-side “You’ve Been Doing Wrong for So Long,” and the “Don’t Leave Me” B-side “Today Will Soon Be Yesterday.” Reissue producer David Nathan’s new liner notes draw on a fresh interview with Houston, in which she sets the record straight about her biggest hit. Alan Wilson has remastered.
The expanded Any Way You Like It arrives today in the U.S. from Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records imprint! You can pre-order below.
- Any Way You Like It
- Don’t Leave Me This Way
- Don’t Know Why I Love You
- Come to Me
- Don’t Make Me Pay (For Another Girl’s Mistake)
- Sharing Something Perfect Between Ourselves
- If It’s the Last Thing I Do
- Do You Know Where You’re Going to (slated for Motown single 45-1260, released in New Zealand as TMM.872, 1973)
- Together (slated for Motown single 45-1260, released in New Zealand as TMM.872, 1973)
- Today Will Soon Be Yesterday (Tamla 45-54278, 1976)
- You’ve Been Doing Wrong for So Long (Motown 45-1316, 1974)
- One Out of Every Six (Censored Version) (Tamla 45-54275, 1976)
- Don’t Leave Me This Way (U.S. Single Edit) (Tamla 45-54278, 1976)