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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Tommy James

40 Years: The Complete Singles Collection (1966-2006)

Review by Gary Hill

This is sure a great compilation. Tommy James has had plenty of hit singles over the years, and they are all included here. This is a great way to catch up on the various phases of his career in just two CDs. I should mention that I reviewed a few of these songs on their original discs, so for the sake of consistency the track reviews here are copied or adapted from those reviews. I heartily recommend this as a great place to start in catching up with the hit machine known as “Tommy James.”

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Hanky Panky

A cool old school rock and roll number, this seems like one most people would have heard. It’s got a definite surf music vibe to it.

Say I Am
This one is another old time rock and roller. It’s not really my kind of thing, but it still works pretty well.
It's Only Love
Bouncy and fun, this is definitely a 1960s rock vibe. It’s a cool tune.
I Think We're Alone Now
This Tommy James classic has been redone by many artists over the years. I still think this version is the best one out there. You have to go back to the original to get it right.
Mirage
That 1960s pop rock vibe is all over this one, too. It’s a good cut. It’s not one I was really familiar with before, but I really like it.
I Like the Way
There are hints of psychedelic rock built into this number. The horn section is a nice touch, too.
Gettin' Together
Although this is trademark 1960s pop rock, it’s also so fun that it doesn’t feel dated. This is great stuff.
Out of the Blue
Okay, I’m not a big fan of the Beach Boys and this one seems to try to capture some of those Beach Boys kinds of harmonies. So, I’m not overly crazy about this one. Your mileage may vary.
Get Out Now
This energetic rocker is a lot like the kind of pop rock that was so big in the 1960s. It’s another classy tune.
Mony Mony
One of the biggest hits James ever had, this still holds up just as well today, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a great rocker that’s just lots of fun.
Somebody Cares
The horn section is nice on this one and it’s another great pop rocker.
Do Something To Me
This is a definite party rock tune. It’s a lot of fun.
Crimson and Clover
This is the first song by Tommy James and the Shondells I ever remember hearing. I fell in love with it then and I still love it. It’s just such a cool song.
Sweet Cherry Wine
Combining some of the reverb heavy sound from “Crimson and Clover” with more of a mainstream pop rock goes soulful sound, this is another good one.
Crystal Blue Persuasion
Here we get another classic Tommy James tune. This has a lot of Motown built into it. It’s a classy, fairly mellow groove.
Ball of Fire
The horn section here is great and this another killer tune.
She
There’s a bit of a 1950s vibe to this, but the horn section and strings along with the rocking arrangement land this closer to something like Blood Sweat and Tears. It’s great stuff.
Gotta Get Back To You
With a bit of a psychedelic edge, this is smoking hot hard rocking 1960s music. It’s not far removed from things like T-Rex or Grand Funk.
Come To Me
There is a bit of a soulful Motown vibe to this one. It’s a powerful number with great horns and backing vocals.
Ball and Chain
I love the guitar sound on this rocker. It’s another great cut. I’m reminded just a little bit of early Sweet on this thing.
Church Street Soul Revival
I don’t remember ever hearing this song before. The soul and gospel influences on this are great. It’s one of the most fun pieces here. Given some of the competition, that says a lot.
Adrienne
This really reminds me a lot of “Crimson and Clover” in some ways. The arrangement has more of the Motown vibe to it, though and the horn section is great.
Draggin' The Line
Here’s another tune that I’ve always loved. It’s a great 1970s rocker that works so well. It still holds up quite well.
I'm Comin' Home

The bluesy guitar sound that opens this makes me think of The Rolling Stones a bit. This is a cool tune, but not one I remember hearing before. It’s got a soulful element that again ties it to the Motown sound a bit.

Nothing To Hide
The opening section here has a gospel sound to it. There is almost a country vibe to this, too. The combination of those two sounds seems to be the general concept here. This is good stuff, if a bit unusual.
Tell' Em Willie Boy's A Comin'
I love this cut. It’s got a great rock and roll vibe to it. There is some country-styled guitar and it just grooves.
Cat's Eye in the Window
This feels a lot like the rocking side of America to me. It’s got some jazzy chordings, too. I don’t remember ever hearing this number before, but I like it a lot. The fiery section near the end is great.
Love Song
This has more of a psychedelia meets soul feeling to it.
Disc 2
Celebration
A good time rock and roll party tune, this is a fun one.
Boo,Boo,Don't 'Cha Be Blue
A mellower tune, this is melodic and classic. I like the acoustic guitar and the harmonica.
Calico
Here’s a pop tune that’s pretty good. It just doesn’t really grab me that much.
Glory Glory

With a lot more energy and a great horn section, this is definitely better. It’s even got a couple little sections that feel a little proggy.

I Love You Love Me Love
Here we get a catchy rocker that’s a lot of fun.
Tighter, Tighter
This ballad is a big change. It’s also quite strong. I like this one a lot. It’s powerful.
Love Is Gonna Find A Way

I’m reminded of The Bee Gees quite a bit on this number. It also makes me think of George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” just a bit. Add in some jazzy elements and you’ve got a good idea of what this song is about.

Three Times In Love
This is a rather AOR styled balladic number. It’s good, but not a standout.
You Got Me
I like this rocker better. It’s got a catchy hook and some great moments.
You're So Easy To Love
Here’s another catchy pop rocker. It’s tasty, but not one of the best tunes.
Say Please
Now, this is a real winner. It’s a retro styled rock and roll tune that works very well. This is great. The short organ solo is a nice touch. This really has a classic Tommy James sound to it.
Go
There’s a real tropical vibe to the rhythm section on this cut. The whole mix makes me think of 1980s music in a lot of ways. This is good catchy fun.
You Take My Breath Away
A mid-tempo rocker that is branded 1980s, this is a good tune despite feeling 80s. The guitar solo is tasty and I love the acoustic guitar that comes in later, too.
Who Do You Love
This ballad has a really classic vibe to it. The arrangement is classy and I love this tune.
I Love Christmas
This is just what the title sounds like - a pop rock Christmas song from James. This is a cool number and a lot of fun. This isn't exactly the time of year for me to be in the mood for it, though. This one might just become one of those holiday classics, though.
Sweet Cherry Wine (Gospel Version)
I’ve reviewed this tune before, but this is billed here as a gospel version. This is a very soulful number that works quite well. It’s a great tune, really and this mix is just about perfect for this kind of piece.
Isn't That The Guy
This has a sparse sort of arrangement and feels a bit like Hall and Oates meets Motown - with some seriously funky bass work thrown in for good measure. The vocal arrangement is quite cool.
Love Words
Much like “Hold the Fire” that follows it here, this is set in a 1970s sedate approach. It’s a real ballad. I hear a little Beach Boys on this one, but with a lot of old school Tommy James, too. Later this one powers up a bit, too, and I think I like the arrangement on that segment better than anything else on the disc so far.
Hold The Fire
This one has more of Toto ballad sort of approach to it. It's very much in the style of a late '70s early '80s ballad. The electronic percussion later on in the track is just a bit annoying. Still, the vocals in the latter portions of this cut are potent enough to make up for any problems with the backing instrumentation. It turns into a more pop oriented rocker in these later sections.
Long Pony Tail
Coming full circle, this bonus track is a very old school rocker. It’s  very much in keeping with 1950s rock and roll.
 
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