Thelma Houston - A Woman's Touch (2007)

Thelma Houston
thelmahouston-womanstouch.jpg
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

More than a decade and a half after her last chart hit, it is indeed a surprise to witness the return of Thelma Houston on her Shout Factory debut, A Woman's TouchFollowing the trend that has been established by dozens of senior soul and pop artists over the past few years, the disc is a collection of remakes of soul classics from the 60s, 70s and 80s.  The twist in A Woman's Touch is that Houston has chosen to cover popular songs by some of her favorite strong male artists, giving them "a woman's touch."

More than a decade and a half after her last chart hit, it is indeed a surprise to witness the return of Thelma Houston on her Shout Factory debut, A Woman's TouchFollowing the trend that has been established by dozens of senior soul and pop artists over the past few years, the disc is a collection of remakes of soul classics from the 60s, 70s and 80s.  The twist in A Woman's Touch is that Houston has chosen to cover popular songs by some of her favorite strong male artists, giving them "a woman's touch."

The good news is that Houston sounds great.  Her deep, bluesy voice is as distinctive as ever, and she appears at ease with the well worn collection of songs on A Woman's Touch.  She's most effective when she brings the music to her territory, as she does on the sultry slowdown of Marvin Gaye's "Ain't That Peculiar," a call-and-response take on Sting's "Brand New Day" and a dead-on interpretation of Marvin's "Distant Lover."  When the disc (as expected) goes uptempo, she handles cuts like Luther's "Never too Much" and Sylvester's "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" with aplomb, giving them the full disco diva treatment.  While less distinctive, the remaining cuts, ranging from Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes' "Wake Up Everybody" to the oft-recorded "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" are completely listenable (though occasionally marred by excessive monologues). 

Producer Peitor Angell does his best to give the largely electronic sounds on the album the feel of authentic orchestration, but the programmed horns and strings simply can't hold up over ten songs, and tend to give a slightly tinny foundation under Houston's powerful lead.  What she could have done with a full horn section would have been something to behold.

It's really a treat to hear Thelma Houston again, and it's even better to hear her sound this good.  The concept of A Woman's Touch isn't necessarily all that inspired, but Houston's performance is.  Even with production that occasionally lapses from lack of budget, A Woman's Touch is surprisingly enjoyable from front to back, and marks the welcome return of a great singer.  Recommended.

By Chris Rizik

 

Leave a comment!