ALBUM REVIEW: Soul queens owe a debt of gratitude to Ms Memphis

MEMPHIS BELLE: Carla Thomas, Stax Records' first recording star who became known as "Queen of Memphis Soul".  Photo supplied by Pomona UK.
MEMPHIS BELLE: Carla Thomas, Stax Records' first recording star who became known as "Queen of Memphis Soul". Photo supplied by Pomona UK.

Carla Thomas, Stax Classics, Concord Music Group, Out Now

Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and The Supremes, Gladys Knight and Tina Turner would all happily make room in their soul divas’ palace for Carla Thomas.

The 74-year-old Memphis native may not have recorded a song as instantly recognizable as “Respect” (Franklin) or “Walk On By” (Warwick).

But Carla’s duet with Otis Reading on the 1967 hit “Tramp”, along with “Cause I Love You” where she joins her dad Rufus Thomas, saw her crowned as “The Queen of Memphis Soul”.

Thankfully, Carla is still alive today for Stax Records to honour her as its first star with an album featuring a dozen of her songs to mark its 60th anniversary.

The 1966 song “B-A-B-Y” shows off her high octane soprano, similar to that of Deniece Williams (“Free”, “Too Much Too Little Too Late”).

You can’t sing soul music unless you have a spiritual feeling for the music

Carla Thomas, ‘The Queen of Memphis Soul’

But unlike her Stax stablemates Sam & Dave, Carla’s range of songs stretch far wider, with slow ballads like “Comfort Me”, “When Tomorrow Comes” and “What Is Love?”

Carla summed up what this album and a soul diva’s whole world is built on during an interview on US radio in 2013.

She said: “Soul is this expressive thing that comes from the spirit”.

Review by Winston Brown