Billy And Sue by B.J. Thomas and The Triumphs

January 23, 2012

Billy Joe Thomas (B.J.) placed 26 singles on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. The most successful period of his career occurred while recording for the Scepter label, 1966-1972. Songs such as “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” “Hooked On A Feeling,” and the number one “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” made him a pop superstar.

Like many artists, before he achieved fame he recorded for several other labels.

“Billy And Sue” was receased during 1964 on both the Bragg and WB labels. After he became famous, it was released as a single on the Hickory label. It became a pop hit reaching number 34.

It remains one of his better vocals. The song told a story about Billy and Sue.” It remains a forgotten part of his catalogue and legacy.

On My Way/Young And In Love by B.J. Thomas

March 17, 2010

Collector’s Choice Music has released four double albums which reissue B.J. Thomas’ early work for the Scepter Label. On My Way/Young And In Love are a combination of his third and fourth albums released in 1968 and 1969.

B.J. Thomas’ first two albums were issued in 1966, and while they failed to chart, they did produce two top forty singles including the number eight “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” These early successes would encourage him to move from his childhood Houston to Tennessee and begin the most popular period of his career.

On My Way was his breakthrough album and would be his first American chart success. It would also contain two of his more memorable songs, both of which would become hit singles. “The Eyes Of A New York Woman” and “Hooked On A Feeling,” both written by long time collaborator Mark James, are sixties pop at its best. They are catchy and contain an excellent vocal. Also included is a very good cover of the Ray Stevens hit “Mr. Businessman.” He also gives what can be considered to be an interesting interpretation of “Light My Fire.”

Young And In Love was a more hit and miss affair. It did not produce any hit singles nor did it enjoy any chart action but it did provide the bridge to his most popular album, Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, which was released later in 1969. “It’s Only Love” was released as a single but stalled out at number forty-five. It deserved better as it is a gentle tune and contains another fine vocal. On the other hand “Pass The Apple Eve” is no doubt the worst single release of his career and peaked at number 97 which is probably more embarrassing than not charting at all. All is not lost however as his covers of such songs as “The Worst That Could Happen,” “Solitary Man,” and “Skip A Rope” are all above average.

On My Way/Young And In Love contains the music that made B.J. Thomas a star. When you take the best of these two releases they present a master pop technician at work.

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head/Everybody’s Out Of Town 45 by B.J. Thomas

March 17, 2010

Collector’s Choice Music has decided to reissue eight early B.J. Thomas albums from his time with the Scepter label. Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head/Everybody’s Out Of Town is the second of these four twofer’ releases.

Billy Joe Thomas was born August 7, 1942 in Hugo Oklahoma. While he has been a regular on the gospel circuit since the early 1980’s, it is his series of singles, released between 1966 and 1978, for which he is best remembered. Songs such as “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head,” “Hooked On A Feeling,” “Mighty Clouds Of Joy,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” and “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” received massive radio airplay in their day.

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, released in 1969, was his most popular and highest charting album reaching number twelve on The American charts. The title song would win The Oscar for Best Original Song for its appearance in the movie Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. Ray Stevens, in a disastrous career decision, turned the song down and B.J. Thomas made it his signature song and one of the memorable tunes in movie history. It would top the American pop charts for four weeks during the fall of 1969.

The most interesting track is his cover of the Elvis hit “Suspicious Minds.” They hired producer Chips Moman and he erased Elvis’ vocal from the track, hired The Sweet Inspirations to re-do their part, and then B.J. recorded his vocal on top. They did the same thing with Dionne Warwick’s vocal on “Little Green Apples” and “This Guy’s In Love With You.” Other than the title song they were the album’s strongest tracks.

Everybody’s Out Of Town was released in 1970 and except for the lack of a huge standout hit song is very similar in quality to Raindrops. “I Just Can’t Help Believing” is one of his better performances and cracked the American top ten during June of 1970 plus the title song was a gospel tinged top thirty hit that same year. Two other songs of note are Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” and the Burt Bacharach-Hal David composition “Send My Picture To Scranton, Pa.”

Five bonus tracks complete the album. “Long Ago Tomorrow” was a low charting single from 1971 that deserved better. His take on the Mac Davis country tune “I Believe In Music” and the classic “Always On My Mind” are well done.

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head/Everybody’s Out Of Town demonstrate that B.J. Thomas could put together credible pop albums during the early part of his career and should not just be thought of solely as a singles artist.

I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry/Tomorrow Never Comes by B.J. Thomas

February 22, 2010

B.J. Thomas’ career has now spanned four decades. And while he has released dozens of albums, he is probably best remembered for his hit singles. Songs such as “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “The Eyes Of A New York Woman,” “Hooked On A Feeling,” “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” “Mighty Clouds Of Joy” along with his two number one hits “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” and “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” sold millions of copies and remain memorable decades after their release.

Thomas’ musical journey began during the sixties in Houston, Texas with his backing band The Triumphs. He would issue twelve albums for the Scepter Label 1966-1973. Collector’s Choice has now reissued eight of these early albums as four twofers, comprising the complete albums plus some rare B-sides and a few unissued tracks to create 26 songs per CD.

My first exposure to B.J. Thomas was the single, “Billy and Sue,” which was a top forty hit for a minor label. While it was not included on any of his early LP releases, it remains a wonderful artifact of the sixties and is worth seeking out.

The first twofer, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry/Tomorrow Never Comes, combines his first two albums which were both released in 1966. His first album is the better of the two, with “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and “Mama” both becoming hits. The title song is a wonderful rendition of Hank Williams’ classic country masterpiece—and may be the best cover of this old standard—as he moves it over into a pop sound with a poignant and plaintive vocal. The album would also establish his relationship with songwriter Mark Charron who composed half of its original twelve tracks.

As with many albums of this era there are a few covers of popular hits of the day. Wilson Pickett’s “Midnight Hour” and the Tom Jones hit, “It’s Not Unusual,” are competent but another Hank Williams tune, “There’ll Be No Teardrops Tonight,” is outstanding.

Tomorrow Never Comes is a nice slice of mid-sixties pop but contains no big hits. Mark Charron composed nine of its twelve tracks here, the best of which are “Ashes Of Dreams You Let Die,” “My Home Town,” and “Candy Baby.” Other outstanding tracks are Thomas’ cover of the old country tune, “Tomorrow Never Comes,” and “Gonna Send You Back To Georgia.” All the material has been remastered and the sound is vastly superior to the original vinyl releases. An accompanying booklet presents a nice history of the two albums as well. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry/Tomorrow Never Comes is a nice look at both the early career of a pop master and of sixties pop music itself. Both albums have been out of print for years and it’s nice to have them available again.