‘CRYSTAL BLUE SYMPHONIES:
THE PSYCHEDELIC YEARS’
by TOMMY JAMES & THE SHONDELLS
(Revola CR REV 280) www.revola.co.uk
“Mony Mony” – oh yeah. But Tommy James and his Shondells were more than just bubble-pop. “Crimson And Clover” is classic late-psychedelia, overloaded with shuddering reverberating echo-phasing that sounds even better in cleaned-up digitised CD-format than it ever did on my scratchy-scuffed seven-inch vinyl. As the Simpsons Otto-man tells it ‘I don’t need drugs to enjoy this. Just to enhance it’. The single, a US no.1 to boot, was edited down from sessions that produced two electricity-drenched albums – ‘Crimson And Clover’ and ‘Cellophane Symphony’, both here on a single-CD, both issued in 1969, and both shoving whizzy studio technology to the edge with reverse-tape gibberish and much use of the newly devised moog synthesiser. Is ‘hello banana, I am a tangerine’ profound, surreal, or just silly? the result of overdosing on too much “I Am The Walrus”, or too much of Dr Leary’s Special Brew? The first album is more Pop-friendly, with “Kathleen McArthur” – a poor-boy rich-girl love tryst, “Do Something To Me” retaining something of the ‘Hanky Panky’ bounce, and “Breakaway” even extending into fuzz-guitar Temptations-style funk. Then “Crystal Blue Persuasion” is another hit single, with more than a taste of the Young Rascals Latin “Groovin’” groove, or maybe the spooky Classics Four. The second set, opening with a denser more ‘conceptual’ 9:38-minute head-music foray into early Floydian cosmic moods, and leading into the trippy heavy-osity of “Changes” with its lyrical pseudo-profundity, is slightly less wacky fun. Until picking up with the quirky “I Know Who I Am” detailing Tommy’s adventures with an ugly groupie, and a man with chapped lips who smiled and almost bled to death! Pausing only to bring on the crippled monkeys and a John Wayne impression, the album closes with a riotous spoof-retirement party, “On Behalf Of The Entire Staff And Management” which disintegrates into laughter and raucous silly-voice abuse. Maybe it’s satire on the corporate mindset, maybe it’s just daft. Whether an astute shot of commercial opportunism, a genuine attempt to escape from ‘Mony Mony’ bubble-pop and gain the respect of his peers, or a cool fusion of the two, it works for me.