Music Reviews
Tommy James

Tommy James

Hold the Fire

Aura Records

It would probably be easier and quicker to make a list of the things that Tommy James has not accomplished in a songwriting career that has to date sold over 100 million records and been awarded 23 gold singles and 9 gold and platinum albums. When I think of songs like “Mony, Mony,” “Crimson And Clover,” “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” “Sweet Cherry Wine,” and “I Think We’re Alone Now,” it brings me back to a much simpler time riding in the back of my parents’ ‘68 Buick Skylark with these songs just totally dominating the airwaves. Now, some thirty-plus years since the last Shondells record and twelve years since his last solo effort, Tommy James has released the wonderful Hold The Fire on Aura Records.

Opening with a vibrato-driven street corner harmony, “Isn’t That The Guy” evokes a ’50s inspired reflection of a summer lovin’ triangle with all the jealousy and regret as inevitable as an inescapable sunburn. “Lupe and Joe” has a terrific Latin feel to it and, in the tradition of songs like “Copacabana” and “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” has a fun time with the age-old tale of the dangers in desire.

A new gospel-invigorated version of James’s hit “Sweet Cherry Wine” will strike a very personal chord with today’s listener. With the help of The Koots featuring La Juan Carter and Gregg D. Hollister, the Vietnam galvanized lyric of, “Oh yeah yesterday my friends were marching out to war/ Oh yeah listen now we ain’t a marching anymore” combined with today’s headlines about Iraq and Afghanistan can’t help but take on an almost religious and penitential position.

“Love Words,” “Ordinary Girl,” and the infectious “It Keeps On Going” are very reminiscent of the “classic sound” and can easily stand side-by-side with any of James’s work with The Shondells. Always a showman who gives 100% and just a little more, there is even a bonus track included here from his first ever Christmas record that will be released a bit later this year. Fans of Tommy James and The Shondells will be thrilled to hear that alongside some great arrangements of traditional Christmas music are three new original songs, one being “It’s Christmas Again,” a track that reunites the original Shondells with Tommy after some thirty years. And if that isn’t enough of a present, his autobiography “Me, The Mob and The Music” is being made into a major motion picture with additional talk of staging it on Broadway.

Tommy James’s new CD, Hold The Fire does just that. All the finest qualities that you’ve come to expect from a Tommy James record are here. The fabulous song structures, heavenly harmonies and passionate lyrics that make up these new songs help to stoke an already blazing canon of legendary music.

Tommy James is currently on the road supporting Hold The Fire as well as performing all those magnificent songs that helped to make up the glorious remembrances of days and nights gone by. Do yourself a favor and go relive the past while creating a new memory for the future.

Tommy James:

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