Friday, February 21, 2020

Tommy James - Tommy James (1970 us, psychedelic rainbows and mirror images of black and white sketches, 2009 remaster)

A very cosmic/psychedelic album cover has seven black-and-white Tommy James heads coasting over what looks like an acid trip, rainbow behind him, colors dripping upwards. It's the opposite of the black-and-white psychedelic look of the Cellophane Symphony album and the first of James' three final albums for Roulette. If we are to take the discs as three chapters, this one is Tommy James and Bob King proving that Tommy James was the Shondells. "Ball and Chain" is poppy and intense, the Velvet Underground gone bubblegum. Clearly, drugs had some influence on Tommy James' work, and where his ex-bandmates took a stab at the third Velvet Underground album with their Hog Heaven track "Come Away," "Ball and Chain" from the first Tommy James solo album sounds like it is an outtake from the Velvet Underground's Loaded CD.

"Meet the Comer" has bits of Neil Young's "Helpless," all gone pop, of course. Tommy James' reformulation of pop riffs he would create or nick kept the majority of his albums highly listenable. It's a real gift to tune in and grab melodies from the cosmos, and rest assured, memorable hooks and special sounds are all over these grooves. "Midnight Train" continues the party, making this a very underground pop album. "Come to Me" leads off side two, and it is the lost sequel to "Sugar on Sunday," the big hit for the Clique which first appeared on the Crimson & Clover album. "Come to Me" has a choir of backing vocals and should've been a smash with its flavors of past glories enhanced with a new bridge. Wonderful stuff. As the first part in his solo trilogy, Tommy James pays tribute to Tommy Roe, Billy Joe Royal, and even Bobby Sherman, but shows them all how a pop album is crafted and how Tommy James is the genuine article. 

It's perhaps the most experimental of all his projects, more cohesive than Peter Lucia and Mike Vale's Hog Heaven, and sets the stage for the refined Christian of the World and the reverent and very satisfying Nashville recording My Head, My Bed and My Red Guitar. Where a song like "Quick Silver would be out of place on those aforementioned titles, it fits perfectly on this descent into a pop maestro's psyche. An enlightening project, and like many of Tommy James' other artistic endeavors, tragically overlooked.
by Joe Viglione
1. Ball And Chain - 3:33
2. Meet The Comer - 3:36
3. Midnight Train - 3:28
4. Light Of Day - 3:47
5. Come To Me - 2:35
6. I Lost My Baby - 3:05
7. Lady Jane - 3:42
8. Quicksilver - 3:43
9. Draggin' The Line - 2:45
10.Church Street Soul Revival - 3:07
All songs by Tommy James, Bob King
Tracks 5,7 with The Shondells
Bonus Tracks 9-10

*Tommy James - Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
*Peter Scaltrito - Guitars
*Eddie Gray - Guitars
*Frank Scaltrito - Keyboards
*Ron Rosman - Keyboards
*Bob King - Bass
*Fung Porter - Bass
*Mike Vale - Bass
*Russ Leslie - Drums, Percussion
*Peter Lucia - Drums, Percussion

1969  Tommy James And The Shondells - Crimson And Clover / Cellophane Symphony (2009 remaster) 

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