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Three Times In Love

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Album Review

Three Times in Love came nine years since Tommy James hit the Top 20 solo, and this solid musical outing on producer Jimmy Ienner's label in 1980 was a breath of fresh air on pop radio. After two good albums on Fantasy Records in 1976 and 1977, reuniting James with Jeff Barry, Ritchie Cordell, and former Shondells drummer Peter Lucia, it took Millennium, the label that would reactivate Don McLean's career a year later, to bring James back to his fans with this magical hit record. Three Times in Love was a forerunner to what would become a staple of AAA radio. Along with hitting the Top 20, the title track went to number one on adult contemporary. James was more than a teen star, his psychedelic intuition gave The Best of Tommy James & the Shondells a hip edge reserved for revered songwriters like Jackie DeShannon. The musicianship on "Everything I Am," which feels like a sequel to the title track, is simply exquisite, with a great vocal by this underrated artist. A career with 17 records on the charts is truly substantial, and James has never been fully credited for the influence he had on the times. Where an Aimee Mann emerged from the hip underground to find making her own records essential to her art, James came from the other end of the spectrum, crafting his musical vision on his own while on major labels. "It's Magic" is resplendent in Beatles guitars and dense '80s pop production. With friends like Michael Brecker and Luther Vandross adding their skills, Three Times in Love had an elegance rare on radio at that time. It's a shame "You Got Me," "It's Magic," and "Everything I Am" did not get airplay to follow the hit. "I Just Wanna Play the Music" has lots in common with "Do Something to Me," an adventurous little record which was a minor hit for the Shondells in 1968. "It's Al Right (For Now)" ends the record with a bit of that Chinn/Chapman British pop that James experimented with on his In Touch album from 1976. AAA radio in the new millennium would be wise to add these retro album tracks to a format which needs artists like James to shake things up and keep listeners happy. Millennium released a Spanish 45 rpm version of "3 Times in Love" shortly after the song hit on the American charts.


Born: 29 April 1947 in Dayton, OH

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Tommy James & the Shondells -- the very mention of their name, even to someone who doesn't really know their music, evokes images of dances and the kind of fun that rock & roll represented before it redefined itself on more serious terms. And between 1966 and 1969, the group enjoyed 14 Top 40 hits, most of which remain among the most eminently listenable (if not always respected) examples of pop/rock. The group was almost as much of a Top 40 radio institution of the time as Creedence Clearwater Revival,...
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Three Times In Love, Tommy James
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