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Tommy James and the Shondells - 40 Years: The Complete Singles Collection (1966-2006)

  by Lisa Torem

published: 26 / 11 / 2022

Tommy James and the Shondells - 40 Years: The Complete Singles Collection (1966-2006)
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Lisa Torem enjoys a new compilation from unrivaled American singer-songwriter Tommy James which includes distinctive recordings from his long-standing solo career.

Each of the 47 tracks, many of which have never appeared on a CD before, appears in its "original version and format…whether mono or stereo" according to the press release. This smartly-packaged collection is truly a treat. I especially loved the raw bonus track, ‘Long Ponytail’ recorded back in 1962, when James was promoted as part of Tom & The Tornadoes. But there’s a lot more to choose from… ‘Celebration,’ with its four-to-the floor beat, sweltering sax and imaginative references, among others, ‘Mr. Memphis Red’ and ‘One-eyed Jack’ screams rock ‘n’ roll renaissance. ‘Say Please’ is another heavy hitter, where James’s assertive, gritty vocals demand strict attention. You’ll also hear James’s softer side: ‘Boo Boo Don’t Be Blue’ lies in contrast to songs such as the likes of ‘Celebration’ a story about unconditional love. The touching ‘Calico’ has rich harmonies in the outro. The guitar-driven, minor-tinged ‘Love is Gonna Find a Way’ offers more than a glimmer of hope to those struggling with romantic challenges. It draws comparison to the work of Philadelphia producer Todd Rundgren. Not all the love songs, however, cotton to youthful innocence. ‘Isn’t That The Guy’ is about jealousy; the rapid-fire ‘Get Out Now’ serves as a caring warning to a vulnerable lover. On a different note, ‘Sweet Cherry Wine’ fascinates as a soulful gospel ballad—and on, ‘I Love Christmas,’ a wholesome holiday addition, James also namechecks ‘cherry wine.’ ‘Three Times in Love’ surprises with a cool Americana twist. The evanescent ‘You’re So Easy to Love’ has an unarguably addictive bass line. On tracks, ‘You Take My Breath Away’ and ‘Who Do You Love,’ James’s intonation is sublime. Of course, you’ll also hear the hits: the Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich composed ‘Hanky Panky,’ to which James added improvised lyrics. With its Duane Eddy bends and growls, the track faces stiff competition with the grand slam ‘Go’ for the feistiest dance tune. More vibrant guitar interludes appear in ‘Say I Am,’ where the sudden tempo change delights. There’s the literally heart-throbbing (great effects) ‘I Think We’re Alone Now,’ the infectious crowd-pleaser, ‘Getting Together,’ and the sensory-laden ‘Crimson and Clover’ and ‘Crystal Blue Persuasion,’ where poetry and psychedelia joyfully collide. Of course, no Tommy James collection would be complete without the riveting signature tune, ‘Draggin The Line.’ This is an album of diverse cuts. ‘I Love Christmas’ is a cheerful and wholesome addition which has risen exponentially in the ranks of seasonal music since its inception (and the song even namechecks "cherry wine"). ‘Tell ‘Em Willie Boy’s a Comin’ is a standalone, a lively bluegrass confection. Due to its impeccable sound quality and attention to detail (an insert with informative liner notes is included), this trip through four distinctive decades is a Tommy James and the Shondells’ must-have; an enviable collection supported by exceptionally talented musicians.

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Tommy James and the Shondells - 40 Years: The Complete Singles Collection (1966-2006)

Tommy James and the Shondells - 40 Years: The Complete Singles Collection (1966-2006)

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