An interesting beginning to an amazing career
someone else | cleveland, ohio, usa | 04/13/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Gee Whiz" is Carla Thomas' first full-length album, and clearly it revolves around the iconic pop hit single of the same name. And while it was the song "Gee Whiz" that initially brought my attention to Carla Thomas, I've come to find that these earliest recordings, while absolutely satisfying, don't necessarily showcase her best work. This album definitely sounds different from most other Stax recordings (though really this was put out by Atlantic, so that makes sense) in that the notorious horns aren't there and string arrangements are, instead. This isn't a bad thing...it's just different. Part of this album was recorded in Nashville, and you can almost seem to hear it. In many ways, this album seems like it would fit nicely alongside Patsy Cline, or even some of the lounge crooners, though Thomas herself certainly sounds different from those likes. Ultimately, this album has an entirely different feel from any other on Stax that I've heard. It seems prettier and more innocent, which isn't really all that surprising. Her later albums better exhibit her additions to the soul genre, but this is a nice beginning.
The album contains a strong pair of songs written by Thomas (in addition to the title track), and her songs are among the best on the album, though a couple of others are especially great, too. The back half of the album generally outshines the first half, and there are a couple bonus tracks/alternate takes on the disc to round it out a bit.
One large disappointment is that the remastering isn't all that impressive. Some of the strings and background vocals sound tinny and muddled. Every other Stax/Atco reissue that I own sounds great. I'm not sure why they didn't spend more time on this one. But I'm not one to get too stuck on audio fidelity. I've always been more concerned with the songs themselves. Depending on your expectations, this may be more or less of an issue than it is for me."