Collector’s Choice is in the midst of a long-overdue reissue program with the B.J. Thomas catalog. All of his early recordings were released on the defunct Scepter label and had been gathering dust for years. Collector’s Choice are rectifying this situation by putting two LPs on one CD, in chronological order, with extensive liner notes. The series has been a real blessing for those of us who had been unable to obtain the originals.
The I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry/Tomorrow Never Comes disc contained B.J.‘s first two albums. His third, Sings For Lovers And Losers remains out of print for now. The On My Way/Young And In Love CD, comprising LPs number four and five, is the second in the Collector’s Choice series.
In 1967, B.J. made the decision to move from his hometown of Houston to Memphis. This had a significant impact on both of the records, as he now had access to one of the finest studio scenes in the country. In addition to the plethora of top-notch musicians, Memphis also hosted some of the best songwriters of the era.
Most notably, Thomas met Mark James, the composer who supplied Elvis with “Suspicious Minds.” The first single from On My Way was James’ “The Eyes Of A New York Woman,” which made some minor ripples. They then struck gold with “Hooked On A Feeling,” which became B.J.'s biggest hit to date.
On My Way contains some worthy cover songs in addition to “Hooked.” Thomas' version of “Light My Fire” is particularly effective, as is his reading of the classic “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.”
B.J. stumbled a bit with the song selection for the follow-up, Young And In Love. Opening with what is probably the most cringe-inducing track he ever recorded, “Pass The Apple Eve,” the album never quite recovers. Thomas’ voice remains in excellent condition throughout Young And In Love. But for some some reason, things did not gel quite as well as on his previous effort.
Young And In Love does contain an excellent version of Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man,” though. In addition, Thomas gives an outstanding interpretation to “The Worst That Could Happen,” from the pen of Jimmy Webb. Overall, Young And In Love is dominated by ballads such as “Its Only Love,” and “I Pray For Rain.”
Good stuff, and with the addition of six bonus tracks, the total of 26 songs on this one CD is certainly a bargain. On My Way/Young And In Love is definitely a treat for those of us who had never heard this material before. But the real story here is how these records set the stage for what was to come. B.J. Thomas would become a superstar with his next album, which I will be reviewing shortly.