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10 Albums that changed Tommy James' life

When asked to compile his top ten list, James said, “There are so many albums that I have loved and learned from.”
Tommy James. Photo courtesy of Tommy James

Tommy James. Photo courtesy of Tommy James

By Mike Greenblatt

Tommy James, who is back in the studio with the original Shondells, re-recording his hits for the movie version of his book “Me, The Mob & The Music,” has been rocking since 1962. He’s obviously excited. “Wait’ll you hear this new acoustic ballad version of `I Think We’re Alone Now’ with no drums! It’s dreamy and spooky at the same time.” When asked to compile this list, he said, “There are so many albums that I have loved and learned from.”


The Kingston Trio:
Here We Go Again!

I’ve always been into folk music and this album was for me the best that The Kingston Trio ever did.


Harry Belafonte:
Swing Dat Hammer

Harry was my favorite singer back then and this album, filled with prison songs, was always being played. I wore it out.


Bob Dylan: Bob Dylan
I had a job in a record store and saw this come in. I remember thinking he was one of the most interesting artists I’d ever seen. I had never heard of him. Then, when I took it home to play it, oh man!


Big Brother & The Holding Company: Cheap Thrills
Janis at her best! So many great songs! The most clever album design I’d ever seen with that old comic book style…


The Critters: Younger Girl
When I first came to New York, I got to know Don Ciccone and Jim Ryan, two of The Critters. Don ended up playing bass in the Shondells. Another Critter, Ken Gorka, is the manager of The Bitter End in New York City now. I go back a long way with The Critters. We had a lot of the same friends. We recorded in the same studios. The first time I ever heard this album, I fell in love with it and just played it and played it.


The Four Tops: Live!
They did this at one of my favorite clubs, The Rooster Tail in Detroit. Years later I played there with The Four Seasons. In fact, the night I played there was the last night that The Kingston Trio were ever together. It was their last gig. They wound up coming over after their show at The Fox Theater that very night and we hung out with them and Frankie Valli.


Crosby, Stills & Nash: Crosby, Stills & Nash
What magic! It brings back such memories for me like no other album ever. I still play it to this day and marvel at its sound. It’s one of the most well-recorded albums I’ve ever heard.


Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin
I bought this masterpiece on 8-track and listened to it constantly. I had never heard any vocal sound like that in my life.


King Crimson:
In The Court Of The Crimson King

Another masterpiece. This was an album, by the way, that caused me to change our whole drum sound. I learned so much just from listening to this album. Such incredible music. Such incredible technology. To me, it’s one of the greatest albums ever recorded, maybe THE greatest. And it stands up today.


Michael Jackson: Thriller
This is what started a whole new way of life for everybody in the studio. Michael, with Quincy Jones, changed everything in music. It changed the direction of pop for years to come. Its use of synthesized elements within the production pioneered different textures that has yet to be improved upon. It established a whole new paradigm.