Tommy James fans can rejoice as Collectors Choice has put out a timely spread of re-releases to coincide with his biography on Scribner/Simon & Schuster, “Me, The Mob and The Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James and The Shondells”. These beautifully packaged CDs start out with the 1967 classic I Think We’re Alone Now, TJ & The Shondells’ third album; the follow-up, 1968’s Gettin’ Together; the group’s final album, 1970’s Travelin’ and the brilliant 1971 release My Head, My Bed, My Red Guitar, his third solo album (and finale’ on the Roulette imprint).
I’ve reviewed all four of these discs extensively for Allmusic.com so if you go to Barnes & Noble and put the barcode under the scanner on the kiosk you can read the insight I had from a few years back. To add to those perspectives, which I stand by, is the fact that “Mirage”, the not-so-subtle re-working of “I Think We’re Alone Now”, is one of the greatest follow-ups since Lesley Gore responded to “It’s My Party” with a radio sequel, “Judy’s Turn To Cry”.
Mick Jagger was chagrined that he “had to” come up with a complaint song to rival “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, which resulted in “Get Off Of My Cloud”, but that doesn’t stop The Rolling Stones from performing that nugget…Jagger/Richards at half-power is still better than most. And few in the world know that Bobby Hebb actually waited a few singles before putting out a “sequel” to “Sunny”, a beautiful Jerry Ross/Kenny Gamble composition entitled “Love Me”. Listening to “Mirage” right now it strikes this long-time Tommy James aficionado as a remarkable production and entertaining record. It has stood the test of time.
In 1999 Collectables Records put out a two-fer of the first Roulette Tommy James self-titled solo disc and the follow-up, Christian Of The World, which contained the hit “Draggin’ the Line”. Collectors Choice distributes that on their webpage and, though I love having the four discs in this new batch of re-releases, wouldn’t it have been more prudent for the label to have bundled releases together as a “two-fer” series? The genius of James (just listen to “Church Street Soul Revival” on the Collectables set) has not reached today’s mass audience and there are so many nuggets on these respective discs in the Collectors’ Choice sets that something special for the pop fans exploring the giants could spur additional sales. But what do I know, it’s terrific to have My Head, My Bed, My Red Guitar – the brilliant Nashville album – on CD and shimmering in its new format. “The complete 1972 release” is here, sayeth the website, and its true, all four discs have new liner notes, booklets and are treasures for pop fans as well as those who know Tommy James beyond his bevy of wonderful hits.
If Collectors Choice wants to reissue all the James’ discs separately, I say go for it. If they want to give us two-fers, unreleased tracks, different language versions (and those rarities DO exist for some of the hits) and interviews, please do so. The more the merrier. In any case, all four discs are strongly recommended, even the Travelin’ album which, though a swan song for the band, is beautiful in its “back to the future” approach, the seasoned professionals going back and recording something akin to their earlier discs what Tommy did in his first incarnation on the Hanky Panky album…loose and fun and full of life.
Tommy James will be appearing at the National Rock Con this July 30 – August 1 at the Sheraton Meadowlands