Music Reviews
Tommy James and the Shondells

Tommy James and the Shondells

40th Anniversary Singles Collection (1966-2006)

Collector’s Choice

Sometimes it’s easy to forget the effect Tommy James had on American pop music. That impact comes through loud and clear on the nicely done two-disc set of his 48 top tunes by Collector’s Choice. From the hokey pokey sounding “Hanky Panky” to 2006’s “Love Words,” this guy has pumped out a dozen albums and was covered by every one from Joan Jett to the Boston Pops. No question, this guy’s been down to the crossroads.

Tommy James started early, forming his first band at 12 and getting his first hit at 18. He signed with Roulette Records where he wrote a string of hits for himself, and had a few more chart hits with his songs covered by other bands. Listening to the disc from end to end reveals not only his distinctive edge as a writer and composer, but the major trends in American tastes. His early material mimics the rockabilly/Elvis sound of the late ’50s, then he riffs off the British Invasion, psychedelia, and finally settles into a slick loungy ’70s sound. His arrangements become progressively lusher, although the essence of bridge and chorus never are far from his fret board.

The package comes with a handy, fact-filled booklet detailing his career and listing all the tracks and their publishers. While Tommy James will always have a special place on the oldies rotation, his songs are just as fun, danceable and emotional as when they first aired. Whether you grew up with him or you were conceived while mom and dad were listening to him, James is a landmark well worth re-visiting.

Tommy James:

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