B.J. Thomas

B.J. Thomas

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After releasing two albums in 1975 produced by the legendary Chips Moman, one including his second chart-topping hit, "(Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song," B.J. Thomas would change direction with two Chris Christian-produced albums in 1977, Home Where I Belong on the Christian label Myrrh and this self-titled release on MCA. A cover of the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby" went Top 20 around the time of Thomas' 35th birthday in August of 1977, pleasant pop and the last of his 14 Top 40 hits that began 11 years earlier. Thomas looks a mess on the cover photo, and Christian should've known better than to prop up a recovering man and make him look so...desolate. Thomas looks more dead than alive on the album jacket, extinguished rather than born again, but the voice is still very much intact and sounding great. Of the 11 tunes in this collection, the three covers of established hit recordings are the most memorable. There's a great rendition of Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil's "Here You Come Again" (a few months before that tune would launch Dolly Parton into the pop charts) and a passable cover of Randy Goodrum's "It's Sad to Belong," which hit for England Dan & John Ford Coley two months before the version of "Don't Worry Baby" included here. Despite the singer being in great voice, the rest of the album has too many contrived moments that interrupt the flow. The neo-gospel of "Our Love Goes Marching On" feels out of place, and Christian's co-write, "Plastic Words," is a much too plastic song, even copping the "I love you mommy" line that worked so well for Helen Reddy in 1974 on her gem "You and Me Against the World." The "I love you daddy" here is so forced it adds insult to injury; perhaps the producer never heard the commandment "thou shalt not steal." Christian does redeem himself (pun intended) with "Still the Lovin's Fun," a superior middle-of-the-road track, of which there are not enough here. The result is an album that would have made a terrific EP, the influence of the born-again mafia having a much too negative effect on Thomas' career. Linda Hargrove's "Impressions" works well, as does the Troy Seals/Donnie Fritts number "We Had It All" and Mac Davis/Mark James' "Play Me a Little Traveling Music," but the shifting from pure adult contemporary to country to faith occurs so abruptly that it leaves this album uneven. As an interpreter, B.J. Thomas is one of the best in the business, and this was the perfect time for an entire album of covers of popular tunes to further establish the star in the mainstream.

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