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Tommy James - 'In Touch' / 'Midnight Rider' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/13/78/9f/1271_TommyJamesInTouchMidnightRider_1305910304.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     May 20, 2011    
 
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Not the best of the recent Tommy James reissues, but a worthy release none the less.

This two albums on one CD set continues Angel Air's extensive reissue of Tommy James solo output and as with the other titles already released comes complete with excellent liner notes which have been put together with Tommy's cooperation.

By 1976 Tommy James had already had a hugely successful career, penning and performing numerous US hits with his Shondells and also as a solo artist. That success had come through Roulette Records who were owned by mobster Morris Levy, whose label James was desperate to leave, eventually freeing himself from his contract by refusing to write any new songs. The only problem that remained was that Levy also owned the publishing rights to James' material with this agreement staying in place until 1979, which goes a long way to explaining why the first Tommy James album to see the light of day on Fantasy Records was spilt 50/50 between original material and cover versions.

What this means is that in terms of style 'In Touch' is a little all over the place, with everything from the ballad in a country style of the 'The Magician', to the super smooth pop/AOR-lite of 'Tighter, Tighter' (both of which James was involved in writing), via an eclectic mix of covers that includes 'Devil Gate Drive', which was a number one hit for Suzi Quatro, and the pair of Gary Glitter hits '(Do You Wanna) Touch Me' and 'I Love You Love Me Love'. The album may be slightly uneven, but James' vocals are excellent throughout and the covers are done extremely well.

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Although only released one year after 'In Touch', by contrast 'Midnight Rider' is a far more cohesive record with an easy going "LA Rock" vibe that reminds of the likes of The Eagles, prevalent throughout all of the songs. This time James is involved in the writing of nearly all the songs, although thanks to continuing problems with Morris Levy, his name doesn't appear on all the songs he wrote, with his co-writer and producer Jeff Barry taking sole credit. A contributing factor to the sound of the album can also be found on its guest list, with Michael McDonald and Timmy Schmidt (The Eagles) helping out on backing vocals and Al Staehely (Spirit) joining James on guitar. The title track is a great snap-shot of what 'Midnight Rider' has to offer, with James' slick vocal delivery being backed with some great acoustic based rock that is smooth and sleek, whilst having enough hooks to allow you to really get your teeth into it.

Both these albums proved to be a departure for Tommy James from the more pop based songs he had written up to this point, and while the two albums do make for disjointed listening, when played simultaneously, both have enough good songs and great performances to keep you interested. Not the best of the recent Tommy James reissues, but a worthy release none the less.

Steven Reid

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