Tommy James

Tommy James/Christian of the World

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After he broke with the Shondells, Tommy James took some time off out of the spotlight but he came roaring back with his first solo album, 1970's Tommy James. It features the hit song "Ball and Chain" and seven other songs that were not a great departure from the sound he had with the Shondells: up-tempo songs with big hooks, great vocals (lead and background), and a slightly psychedelic feeling. Tracks like the driving "Ball and Chain," the anthemic "Come to Me," and the pounding, bubblegum-tasting "I Lost My Baby" are as good as anything James had done recently. The only track where he stumbles is on the attempted hard rock boogie of "Quicksilver." Some people just aren't meant to rock that way -- and James is one of them. The most interesting tune on the record is "Meet the Comer," which sounds musically like the downer version of "Crystal Blue Persuasion," but is actually the beginning of James' shift to uplifting religious themes that would really blossom on his second solo record. Christian of the World is not a concept record as such, but there is a theme of spirituality running through the lyrics. The title track is a sun-kissed plea for salvation, "Sing Sing Sing" rejects material possessions in favor of the power of song, "Sail a Happy Ship" directs people to turn to religion for peace and friendship, and "Church Street Soul Revival" is a beautiful, open-hearted celebration of God. The music is an amazing blend of bubblegum and gospel with some soul and a bit of country thrown in for good measure. James is on a creative roll here: his vocals are deeply heartfelt and soulful, the songwriting is powerful, and the whole record is strong from beginning to end. It isn't too surprising that apart from the hit single "Dragging the Line," the record was completely ignored. James' bubblegum persona preceded him. No one was quite ready to consider him a serious musician capable of creating an album as fully realized and creative as Christian of the World. Luckily, 30-plus years later one can divorce him or herself from James' lightweight image and see the record for the lost classic that it is. This Collectables two-fer is an essential purchase.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:33
2 3:35
3 3:13
4 4:02
5 2:35
6 3:06
7 3:41
8 3:44
9 2:37
10 1:57
11 2:03
12 3:07
13 2:44
14 3:15
15 3:46
16 2:30
17 2:26
18 3:18
19 3:09
20 2:43
21 2:47
blue highlight denotes track pick