Tommy James & the Shondells

Live at the Bitter End

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Captured live on-stage at New York's Bitter End, Tommy James turns in a lively performance with the 1999 crop of "Shondells." James, who looks a decade younger than his 50 years, can still sing well and remains an exciting figure on-stage, and he's got players backing him whose rock & roll passions are in evidence -- they're not only a tight band, but the flourishes they add, such as the electric bass cadenza on "Crystal Blue Persuasion," only enhance the music. If anything, the stage of the Bitter End, though ideal from an acoustical standpoint for a live recording, is too confining for James and company, who look like they'd be more comfortable playing at, say, the Beacon Theater. The camera angles are nicely varied and the sound is good and loud, matching the levels of a good audiophile CD. The dozen songs represented are a cross-section of James' biggest hits from 1963 through the early '70s, from "Hanky Panky" to "Draggin' the Line." The views of the crowd are sometimes very funny, showing off a significant number of forty- and fifty-something women, all looking older than James himself, totally absorbed in the music. The disc opens on a cleverly constructed main menu and an entertaining special features menu within, which offers easy access to a 25-minute series of interview clips in which James discusses his career (including a funny story about Roulette Records' Morris Levy), as well as a surprisingly detailed discography.

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