Tighter, Tighter

by: Tommy James

Varese Sarabande's Tighter, Tighter chronicles Tommy James' work for Fantasy Records in the mid- to late '70s, plus a couple of MCA singles from the mid-'70s. During this time James had no hits whatsoever and he was even trying to cash in on the success Alive & Kicking had with "Tighter, Tighter" in 1971. James may have been shooting for big success, but also was taking advantage of the artistic freedom Fantasy allowed him. As he says in Kenneth Pobo's liner notes, he "loved it out at Fantasy (because) they gave me run of the place." Consequently, the music compiled on Tighter, Tighter has to be seen as some of James' most personal work and the results are pretty magnificent. Yes, everything here is firmly within the '70s soft-rock tradition -- whether its ballads or surprisingly numerous covers of Gary Glitter glam-rock (let's face it, anything more than one qualifies as "numerous") -- but it's all exceptionally well-crafted and some cuts, like "Bobby Don't Leave Me Alone" the seven-minute tribute to James' friend Bobby Bloom, have a real emotional undercurrent. The rest of the compilation, which culls from the albums In Touch and Midnight Rider, may not have that pull, but it's still fantastically well-crafted soft-rock. The genre was rarely as well-made and subtle as the 16 tracks on this compilation, both in terms of songcraft and production and, at least to these ears, it lends itself to repeat plays better than James' '60s work, which is, of course, just a matter of taste. But, if you're a big fan of the 1980 hit "Three Times in Love" or the softer side of James, this is the album you need to own. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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