For fans of B.J. Thomas, the reissue series of his early work by Collector’s Choice has been a Godsend. Due to the vagaries of the music business, the majority of the Scepter Records catalog remains out of print. Up until now, this included all of Thomas’ early work. If you thought his career began and ended with “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” think again. These releases present the singer in a whole new light.
I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry/Tomorrow Never Comes contains his first two LPs on one CD. First of all, with 12 tracks on each original album, plus two bonus cuts, you get a total of 26 songs here. Not a bad value in itself. What distinguishes I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry is the title tune, B.J.’s take on the Hank Williams classic. The original single was a big hit in his hometown of Houston, TX, and as such led to his contract with Scepter for a full album.
The record features another Hank cover, “There’ll Be No Teardrops Tonight,” a weepy ballad that Thomas gives his all to. As was the rather common practice for a new artist in 1966, B.J. recorded a few other well-known songs, including versions of “It’s Not Unusual,” and “In The Midnight Hour.”
A songwriting friend of B.J.’s from Houston, Mark Charrone wrote five songs that were included on I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry. One of his specialties was in the art of the one word song title: “Mama,” “Wendy,” “Terri,” and “Maria.” The fifth? Two words: “I Wonder.”
For B.J.’s second album, Tomorrow Never Comes, Charrone was given nine of the twelve tracks. To be blunt, this was a pairing that really did not work very well. It may be the arrangements, but sometimes it seems as if Thomas is trying his hardest to get all the words out in time. The sheer verbosity of Charrone’s lyrics just do not fit with B.J.’s singing style.
As the world came to see later, with songs such as “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” and “(Hey, Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song,” B.J. Thomas’ rich voice needs the time to luxuriate in the words. His talent is very similar to that of Willie Nelson, another singer whose vocals simply cannot be rushed.
Having said that though, I do recommend this package for those who enjoy B.J.’s later work, and who (like myself) had never previously had the opportunity to hear how he started out.