Living Blues (11/03, p.71) - "...Earl Thomas proves that he's not just fooling around. He hits the ground running on the self-penned opener - a showstopper entitled 'I'll Love You No Less..."i
Liner Note Author: Jerry Wexler.
Recording information: Capricorn Studios, San Diego, CA; Jeff's Garage Studio City, CA; Memphis Soundworks Studio, Memphis, Tennessee; Signature Sound Studios, Rancho Bernardo, CA; The Elector Studio, Oceanside, CA.
The third release from singer Earl Thomas seems like it emerged out of a mid- to late-'60s Muscle Shoals session. Jerry Wexler, producer of R&B legends like Etta James, Wilson Pickett, and Solomon Burke, is a fan and supporter of the vocalist. He contributes liner notes comparing Thomas to some of the greats, reinforcing the connection. But after one spin, anyone who loves great soul music will instantly appreciate this terrific album. It's as if Thomas has tapped into the spirit that created the classic R&B/soul sound. Not only is the production free of almost all contemporary flourishes (a synthesizer sneaks in unobtrusively on a few cuts), but the songwriting and playing -- especially the horn section -- is so authentic you'll be checking the credits for the recording date. Thomas wrote or co-wrote six of the ten songs, and they are nearly as good as the recognizable covers of "I'd Rather Go Blind," Ragovoy/Shuman's "Look at Granny Run Run," and Tony Johnson's "Midnight in Memphis." The singer's voice -- smooth but gutsy -- nails these tracks, but he never hogs the show or the arrangements, which are crisp and tight. Guitars and horns solo, then retreat to make room for Thomas' emotive vocals. A gospel-infused chorus helps bring religion to "I Won't Be Around," adding even more authenticity to the sound. "Stronger Than My Flame" fuses organ, snappy drums, punchy horns, and a searing performance from Thomas to make the tune fire on all cylinders. Those who have lost faith in the ability of contemporary soul music (circa 2003) to capture the warmth, inspiration, and intensity of the '60s need to add this, as well as the previous two Earl Thomas albums, to their collections. ~ Hal Horowitz