It's Only Love

by: Tommy James & the Shondells

Tommy James & the Shondells' second album, It's Only Love, put forth a bubblegum image that haunted the artist through most of the '60s and '70s. The title track sounds like David Cassidy's Partridge Family and is actually the first of many hits Ritchie Cordell would write for the group, though it isn't as classic as his "Mony Mony" or "I Think We're Alone Now" would become. "Juanita (Nothin's Gonna Stop Our Love)" is or could be the McCoys backing up Tony Orlando and Dawn -- this Henry Glover production feels a bit more contrived and is an abrupt change from the sound and the collegiate look of the debut disc, Hanky Panky. On that long-player, the Shondells resembled the Kingsmen on campus, and as a public relations move that earlier style worked much better. Still, this is a great learning period for an important and innovative artist and should be viewed as such, despite its musical limitations. "Big Time Operator" is typical low-budget '60s teenybop, while the cover of Lee Dorsey's "Ya Ya" is authentic enough to indicate a sense of direction taking shape. Side two fares much better; "We'll Have a World" and "Don't Let My Love Pass You By" may have influenced popular songs of the day, the latter displaying a touch of the American Breed's 1968 hit "Bend Me Shape Me" and a whole lot of 1967's "Come on Down to My Boat Baby" by Every Mother's Son, to the point where it is too close to call. The cover of B.J. Thomas' 1966 ballad "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," which was itself a cover of a 1949 Hank Willams composition, is quaint, but definitely not the Tommy James who would sing with authority and soon dominate the charts. He's still getting his feet wet with It's Only Love and it gives his fans the opportunity to watch him grow as they look back and see the transition from "Hanky Panky" to "Crimson and Clover." This is what came in between, and though not as substantial as the highly consistent other albums by the Shondells, it has its place. ~ Joe Viglione

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