By the end of the 1960s even bubblegum bands were diving head-first into psychedelia, and hit-makers Tommy James & The Shondells (“I Saw Her Standing There” “Mony Mony”) were as eager to experiment as anyone else. Perhaps the results of that experimentation (collected here from the Crimson And Clover and Cellophane Symphony albums – both from 1969) aren’t as mind-blowing as Hendrix, Floyd and other psychedelic pioneers but it’s a nice mix of bubblegum pop and psychedelic sounds. Crimson and Clover is the better album of the two, with a few timeless classics that still sound great today (“Crimson And Clover”, “Crystal Blue Persuasion”), and a few other songs that could just as easily have been hits. “Kathleen McArthur” is a slice of pretty baroque pop that The Zombies or Simon and Garfunkel might have put out. “Do Something To Me”, “Smokey Roads” and “Sugar on Sunday” are bubblegum rock, but the light-hearted nature of the songs doesn’t take away from the solid song-craft and sharp production, done by James himself. Elsewhere, the band gets edgier than you’d expect on the Love-esque “I’m Alive”, garage-rocker “Breakaway”, and the Sgt. Pepper-influenced fuzz-psych number “I Am A Tangerine”.
With a #1 hit single on their hands (“Crimson and Clover”), the band were rushed back into the studio to record a follow-up album. Cellophane Symphony, released just nine months later, sounds rushed, and suffers for it, with the band simultaneously trying to capitalize on Crimson and Clover (the same studio effects resurface several times) while also trying to capture the peace-and-love vibe of the moment (especially on the subtle protest song “Sweet Cherry Wine”). There’s some good material like “Changes” and “I Know Who I Am”, but too many songs have aged poorly like the music-hall number “Papa Rolled His Own”, the maudlin affectations of “The Love Of A Woman”, and the annoyingly hokey “On Behalf Of The Entire Staff and Management”.