Michael Cavacini

An award-winning arts and culture blog.

Review: Alive by Tommy James

Tommy James, best known as the lead singer for Tommy James and the Shondells, is back with a new album: Alive. Overall, I’m impressed with the vocals and music. However, there are a few duds and the album has a disjointed feel to it.

According to Tommy, “Alive started out as an acoustic album, but little by little I realized that there was no way I could interpret all of the songs acoustically, so I gave into electricity!” This 15-track album is comprised of new songs and classics reinterpreted. “It was a very long time in the making. Some songs go back 30, 40, and even 50 years and some are brand new. There are lots of different kinds of songs. If there’s one big theme it’s that there’s absolutely no theme. I wasn’t listening to the radio or what was going on around me musically, I just recorded songs that I had wanted to do for a long time or now,” said Tommy.

As noted above, Tommy is fully aware that the album has no theme. I think that’s a misstep as it shows in the final product. As you make your way through the album, you’ll go from a nice or funky song to a jarring one featuring guest rap vocals – something I didn’t find enjoyable. I also didn’t care for “From The Neck Up,” which is more of a “humorous” sketch than it is a song. When I’m listening to music, I’m not looking to laugh, unless I’m listening to a comedic musical artist like “Weird Al” Yankovic. I find it odd that this song made the cut.

There are numerous standout tracks, including “So Beautiful,” “Distant Thunder,” “A Different Way,” and “I Think We’re Alone Now (acoustic).” I also enjoyed the two-part “Doo-Wop Shuffle,” as they are full of happy, upbeat songs. What struck me most about this album is how much Tommy sounds like Kenny Loggins. It’s bizarre how similar their tone and vocal style is. I mean this as a compliment because Kenny Loggins is one of my favorite singers.

Alive is a good, not great, album that’s worth listening to because there’s a handful of music that’s compelling and well executed. Prior to this, I never took the time to listen to Tommy James’ music at length. Now that I’ve gotten a taste of what he can do, I think I will. While I may not love everything on this album, the man himself refers to it as a “labor of love” and “a personal statement of where I am today,” and I can respect that.

 

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