Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Memphis Queen (And a Wild Card)

Carla Thomas - I've Got No Time To Lose

Let's start with a straightforward declaration: Carla Thomas is my favorite female soul singer. Even if Carla hadn't have been instrumental in giving Stax Records, my fave label, its initial successes (by duetting with her father Rufus on "Cause I Love You," the first hit for the erstwhile Satellite label, and then cutting the major hit "Gee Whiz" (which she wrote) as her first solo single), this assessment would remain the same. Carla Thomas' vocals are a study in contradictions, sounding soulful yet erudite, youthful yet mature (I think it was Dave Godin that parsed the way she pronounced the word "sweetheart" as "sweet heart" in order to demonstrate her style; he was right). Whether singing a sweet ballad like "Gee Whiz," sassy fare like Otis & Carla's "Tramp," Hayes-Porter material like "B-A-B-Y," "Dime a Dozen" or my favorite, "Separation," or records featuring "raps" like "Guide Me Well," Carla wore the "Memphis Queen" moniker with style.

On "I've Got No Time To Lose," a 1964 Atlantic single (through 1965, Carla's records came out on Atlantic as part of the distribution agreement Stax and Atlantic had at the time), Carla takes the melody and works her contradictory magic with the help of some churchy backup singing (were the Drapels backing her on this?) and great accompaniment by the Stax regulars. One of the aforementioned "Stax regulars," Steve Cropper, nearly steals the show on this record, as his guitar work is nothing short of exquisite. From the pealing riff that opens the record and pushes the song along to the stinging lines that close out the verses, he darts in and out of the background to take the great ballad to that "next level" that so many great soul records reached.


mike said...

Hey Jason,

It's really great what you're doing here, the records you show us are just amazing!
You absolutely hit my taste! I'm watching you :)
Keep up the fabulous work and all the best to you from another soul lover from Germany,

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful song--I have mostly been familiar with Carla Thomas for her duets, especially with my favorite, Mr Otis Redding, so it nice to hear her on her own. Incidently, I just came across Otis' cover of Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home to Me," and was wondering if Carla is the woman singing along with him on that--Stepfather, anyone, know about that?