This group does the Hanky Panky...
Daniel J. Hamlow | Narita, Japan | 01/21/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In the brief four-year span when they were prominent, Tommy James and the Shondells seemed an anomaly in an era where the current music arose from what the Beatles wrought with Revolver and Sgt Pepper and what the psychedelics like Iron Butterfly and hard-rockers/blues groups like Steppenwolf produced. The Shondells' eclectic oeuvre covered many genres: garage rock, early sixties pop reminiscent of the Mersey Beat, bubblegum pop, party-rockers, a protest song, and even a shot at psychedelia.Naturally, the compilation starts off with the song from Snap Records that was bootlegged and sold over a million copies, reaching #1. All together now: "My baby does the hanky panky!" Yes, his cover of the Raindrops' "Hanky Panky", with its crisp garage sound, hit big by the time Tommy James had broken up the Shondells.A new Shondells was put together and they signed on to Roulette Records. "Say I Am (What I Am)" has a beat and sound similar to the Kingsmen's "Louie Louie" until the rollicking racing guitar comes on, accompanied by "shake shake shake," until it returns to the original sound.The upbeat "It's Only Love" features horns, maraccas, and a softly tooted flute; a nice number, but compared to their other Top Ten hits, it's understandable why this only hit #31.Three of their big hits were resurrected in the 1980's, two of them hitting #1, one making the Top Ten in the US, all different styles. The catchy bubblegum pop of "I Think We're Alone Now" was an example of James bringing in the songwriting/producing team of Richie Cordell and Bo Gentry. Cordell co-wrote this song. The prominent bassline can be felt in the softly sung chorus and inbetween "running just as fast as we can" and "holding on to one another's hand." Crickets can be heard during the pause before the final chorus. Redheaded mall teen queen Tiffany took this to #1 in 1987, beating the original's #4 peak.With those familiar opening drums, and James' rough "yeahs" and the responding "yeahs" from the other Shondells, "Mony Mony" belongs in the party-rock category like "Louie Louie" and "Hanky Panky". A #3 hit, Billy Idol's version hit #1, also in 1987, giving further royalties to James, Cordell, and Gentry. Ironically, Joan Jett and her producer were considering recording this song instead of "Louie Louie", but the latter prevailed.And finally, James' only other #1, the lyrical "Crimson And Clover", which sold five million copies, with distorted guitars, and later even the words, yet with enough pop sensibilities to take something psychedelic to the top. Yes, "crimson and clover, over and over..." Joan Jett took this to the Top Ten in 1982.Cordell also wrote "Mirage", a #10 hit which recalls an early Beatles sound and has a high-pitched whistle or keyboard, and the racing keyboards and clapping of the happily romantic "Gettin' Together."The flower-power like "Out Of The Blue" mixes early Beatles with some doo-wop styled harmony. And this only got to #43???!The pulsating anti-Vietnam and love song "Sweet Cherry Wine" is one of my favourites: "Yesterday my friends were marching out to war/oh yeah, listen we ain't a marchin' anymore/we ain't gonna fight/only God has the right/to decide who's to live and die." I'll have several bottles of it, please.The leisurely languid ballad "Crystal Blue Persuasion" peaked at #2 during Woodstock week, and echoes the "love is the answer and that's all right" feel of the times.Songs like "She" used strings and a more lovey-dovey 5th Dimension-type sound. Also included Tommy James' solo single "Draggin' The Line", incorporating a bluesy sound with a prominent pulsing bassline.The songs are presented in chronological order, and as this is a Rhino compilation, presents the peak position of each single and the date released. A good intro for those wanting to know about the many sounds and singles of this mid to late 60's group."
Crystal Blue Perfection
Daniel J. Hamlow | 05/23/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Think about the fact that AM radio was the primary domain of Tommy James & The Shondells back in the '60s. Then think about how much lamer AM radio is nowadays (and FM for that matter). This is the best stuff from a really good group, back when radio was worth listening to and ever-more-amazing stuff was coming out practically weekly.My only complaint, to repeat what other reviewers have said, is that the chopped version of Crimson and Clover is on this album. Fortunately, I still have a vinyl album that has the long version on it. But why, oh why didn't they include it on this CD? (Especially when CDs can hold 74 minutes of music.) Rhino, I usually love your compilations, but this is a rip-off!"