Sonny James

The Complete Columbia & Monument Hits

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By the time that this single-disc compilation picks up the Sonny James (guitar/vocals) story, he had already entered his third decade as a country music artist. His streak of 20 consecutive chart-topping hits in the early to mid-'60s is the stuff of legend. This 22-track title gathers all of James' charting hits extracted from the 11 long-players issued in the '70s for the Columbia and Monument labels. Interestingly, during this seemingly prolific period, James considered his primary focus to be producing and music publishing. Early in his career, the vocalist adopted the persona of Nashville's "Southern Gentleman." His easy, non-threatening demeanor as well as warm and inviting inflection made him a great crossover artist into the pop realm as well. The set opens with the number one single "When the Snow Is on the Roses," which began another string of hits. Among the higher-profile inclusions are the romantic epic "A Mi Esposa con Amor (To My Wife With Love)," "What in the World's Come Over You," "A Little Bit South of Saskatoon," and "Little Band of Gold." James also found success covering a wide spectrum of genres. These range from his tongue-in-cheek interpretation of the Piedmont blues "He's in the Jailhouse Now" -- which sounds as if it may have been mocked up to imitate a live performance featuring the "Tennessee State Prison Band" -- to the '60s Stax sound of "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby" and even Gene Autry's signature "Back in the Saddle Again." For the most part, the primary directive of the rather generic backing musicians is to, quite frankly, stay out of the way of the vocalist -- which they indeed accomplish. Notably, the latter hits -- such as the Top 20 "Caribbean" -- retain much of the charm and cozy familiarity of his earlier work. Perhaps it is this stability that has allowed James such a lengthy and prolific career. Enthusiasts will undoubtedly herald Collectors' Choice Music for finally corralling these sides together.

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