Three Times in Love came nine years since Tommy James hit the Top 20 solo, and this solid musical outing on producer Jimmy Ienner's label in 1980 was a breath of fresh air on pop radio. After two good albums on Fantasy Records in 1976 and 1977, reuniting James with Jeff Barry, Ritchie Cordell, and former Shondells drummer Peter Lucia, it took Millennium, the label that would reactivate Don McLean's career a year later, to bring James back to his fans with this magical hit record.
Three Times in Love was a forerunner to what would become a staple of AAA radio. Along with hitting the Top 20, the title track went to number one on adult contemporary. James was more than a teen star, his psychedelic intuition gave The Best of Tommy James & the Shondells a hip edge reserved for revered songwriters like Jackie DeShannon. The musicianship on "Everything I Am," which feels like a sequel to the title track, is simply exquisite, with a great vocal by this underrated artist.
A career with 17 records on the charts is truly substantial, and James has never been fully credited for the influence he had on the times. Where an Aimee Mann emerged from the hip underground to find making her own records essential to her art, James came from the other end of the spectrum, crafting his musical vision on his own while on major labels. "It's Magic" is resplendent in Beatles guitars and dense '80s pop production. With friends like Michael Brecker and Luther Vandross adding their skills, Three Times in Love had an elegance rare on radio at that time. It's a shame "You Got Me," "It's Magic," and "Everything I Am" did not get airplay to follow the hit. "I Just Wanna Play the Music" has lots in common with "Do Something to Me," an adventurous little record which was a minor hit for the Shondells in 1968. "It's Al Right (For Now)" ends the record with a bit of that Chinn/Chapman British pop that James experimented with on his In Touch album from 1976. AAA radio in the new millennium would be wise to add these retro album tracks to a format which needs artists like James to shake things up and keep listeners happy. Millennium released a Spanish 45 rpm version of "3 Times in Love" shortly after the song hit on the American charts.
|You Got Me||Tommy James||3:57|
|Long Way Down / Tommy James||Tommy James||3:14|
|Three Times in Love / Tommy James||Tommy James||4:09|
|Lady in White / Tommy James||Tommy James||4:20|
|Everything I Am / Tommy James||Tommy James||4:01|
|It's Magic / L. James||Tommy James||5:24|
|I Just Wanna Play the Music / Tommy James||Tommy James||3:59|
|Let It Slide / Tommy James||Tommy James||4:50|
|It's All Right for Now / Tommy James||Tommy James||4:01|