When Tommy James was just 13 years old, he and a group of junior high school buddies formed a rock `n roll band in their hometown of Niles, Michigan. They called themselves The Shondells. The group caught the eye of a local record producer and The Shondells were given a chance to cut a record. The Shondells released a tune called "Judy" in 1962. Although that record went nowhere, a local DJ that was starting a new label late in 1963 decided to give The Shondells another shot. They recorded a tune called "Hanky Panky" on the fledgling Snap label and this time they had themselves a local hit. However, the record never received any airplay outside the local area. Fast forward now to 1966 when Tommy James received a bizarre phone call from a promoter in Pittsburgh with an urgent request that he come to town to do a live concert. Since Tommy had never even been to Pittsburgh he had no idea what was going on. As it turned out, this promoter had found a copy of "Hanky Panky" in a used record bin. He liked it so much that he began playing it at dances all around town. Suddenly, radio stations in Pittsburgh were getting requests for this tune. Tommy James packed his bags and headed for the Steel City. The original Shondells had broken up so if was going to do concerts he would need a band to back him up. He hired a local Pittsburgh outfit called The Reconteurs to fill the bill and Tommy James and the Shondells were born. Soon thereafter the group signed with Morris Levy's Roulette records and re-recorded "Hanky Panky". This new recording was a bit more uptempo than the original and was an immediate smash. "Hanky Panky" would climb all the way to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart and would remain there for two weeks. Tommy James and the Shondells were on their way. After all these many years Collector's Choice presents "Tommy James and the Shondells: 40th Anniversary Singles Collection". This impressive 2 disc set offers up four dozen tunes by Tommy James both with The Shondells and as a solo performer. For all but the most rabid fans, it is probably more Tommy James than you would ever want or need.
Collectors Choice has taken special care in trying to differentiate "40th Anniversary Singles Collection" from some of the other anthologies that have been released previously. You will find the original 1963 Snap recording of "Hanky Panky" included here. Between 1966 and 1970 Tommy James and the Shondells placed a total of 19 singles on Billboard's Hot 100. Virtually all of them are included here including "I Think We're Alone Now", the #1 smash "Crimson and Clover" from 1969, "Crystal Blue Persuasion" and the highly annoying "Mony, Mony". God I hate that song!! The first 15 tracks are presented in their original "mono" format that had never appeared on compact disc before. You will probably notice some slight differences on a few of the tunes. In 1970, Tommy jettisoned the band and began pursuing a solo career. Unfortunately, the songs sounded an awful lot like the ones he did with the Shondells. He did manage to snag one more big hit with 1971's "Draggin' The Line". But the public began to lose interest and although Tommy continued to churn out single after single they all seemed to stall in the middle to lower reaches of the Hot 100. Tommy James disappeared from the scene for several years before signing a new deal with Millennium records in 1980. His comeback single "Three Times In Love" was a pretty decent pop tune that managed to crack the Top 20. A follow-up called "You're So Easy To Love" would be somewhat less successful. Both of these tunes are included here as well.
As always, the good folks at Collector's Choice have done an outstanding job in putting together "Tommy James and the Shondells: 40th Anniversary Singles Collection". Ed Osborne's liner notes provide tons of information on the artist and the photos from Tommy James' personal collection are highly enjoyable to peruse. While Tommy James certainly had his share of hits I am not really sure that this artist merits such an elaborate anthology. I am perfectly happy with Rhino's 2 LP "Anthology" that I purchased many years ago. But for many long-time fans and serious collectors I am quite sure that "40th Anniversary Collection" will fill the bill nicely. Recommended.
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