Vintage Stash

Tommy James and The Shondells

Travelin'

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As the 1960s drew to a close, Tommy James and The Shondells had successfully managed to allow the revolutionary vibes of the FM dial to seep into the hit-making sunshine sounds of their bubblegum garage background. Yet, despite adding elements of the very psychedelia that was making their insatiably catchy brand of AM pop obsolete on their pair of 1969 albums Crimson & Clover and Cellophane Symphony, James and co. never quite earned their stripes as album rock artists on par with the likes of Cream, The Who and The Beatles. That all changed, however, with the release of what would become the band’s final work together, 1970’s Travelin’.


As the 1960s drew to a close, Tommy James and The Shondells had successfully managed to allow the revolutionary vibes of the FM dial to seep into the hit-making sunshine sounds of their bubblegum garage background. Yet, despite adding elements of the very psychedelia that was making their insatiably catchy brand of AM pop obsolete on their pair of 1969 albums Crimson & Clover and Cellophane Symphony, James and co. never quite earned their stripes as album rock artists on par with the likes of Cream, The Who and The Beatles. That all changed, however, with the release of what would become the band’s final work together, 1970’s Travelin’, a full emancipation from their hit radio past as illustrated by the classic gatefold cover art by the great American West painter Ron Lesser depicting James and the Shondells in a stagecoach being chased by their old boss, Roulette Records owner Morris Levy and a couple of industry goons on horseback.

Brandishing a heavy rock feel miles away from the carefree frivolity of such previous hits as I Think We’re Alone Now and Hanky Panky, the 10-song, 34-minute LP screams for the street cred James and the Shondells so earnestly desired in the Vietnam era. The psychedelic embellishments of their previous two efforts gave way to something James himself puts in the liner notes to the Collector’s Choice label’s reissue of Travelin’ (released April 20) as “gritty and grainy, like dust in your mouth and sand in your boots.” And the group knocked it right out of the park with tunes like the proggy instrumental title cut, the savage fuzz blues of Bloody Water and the funky-as-fuck Candy Maker, whose nasty opening drum break was memorably sampled by Kanye West for his 2005 Macy’s crashing anthem Heard Em Say. Travelin’ is undoubtedly the best Tommy James and the Shondells album out there and most certainly one of the greatest lost rock LPs of all-time.