Classic ‘70s R&B in the voice of one who understands it is an absolute joy to listen to, more so if you remember that period warmly. Thelma Houston, who enjoyed chart success with her Motown song, “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” returns to music with her new album, 17 years later since her last. Her’s is the gospel-trained voice that brings to mind even the vocal glories of The Staples Singers.
On her newest album, A Woman’s Touch, Thelma Houston adds her touch to classic tunes in an album of covers, a seemingly contagious thing to do in this period. She tackles a few oddities in this collection but makes them quite her own here. Consider “Brand New Day” from Sting. In her voice, it becomes an R&B standard as if it was anything but to begin with. Jimmy Webb’s Glen Campbell-sung, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” slips it country clothes and easily becomes a new song, giving it a “Midnight Train to Georgia” flavour.
On “Distant Lover,” the song by Marvin Gaye, Houston respectfully sings the tune in his style. All of this serves us to know that the professionalism of Thelma Houston hasn’t failed a bit. She is as great a voice and talent as we remembered her to be.
Thelma Houston’s interpretations make this album of other’s tunes more than an album of mere covers. She adorns them with the classic R&B sound and you begin to wonder if they were anything but. I’m still trying to figure out why she hasn’t recorded anything over the last 17 years.