Style: The pinnacle of this San Francisco band's long-celebrated (and recently reissued) blues-rock oeuvre.
Worldview: "[T]here was more of what the folkies were after in [John Fogerty's] terse, grounded metaphors, not to mention his raceless drawl with its eerie high end, than in all the era's yearning poetry and doleful cries" (Robert Christgau's liner notes).
Overall quality: Song for song, the one CCR reissue to get if you're going to get just one; not bonus track for bonus track, though: "45 Revolutions per Minute" is on Pendulum.
Style: The 17 AM-radio hits James scored from 1966 to 1980, plus 31 "misses" that shouldn't have been.
Worldview: "Yesterday . . . we're marching out to war. . . . / [N]ow we ain't a-marchin' any more. . . . / Only God has the right / to decide who's to live and die" ("Sweet Cherry Wine," 1969); "I thank the Good Lord everyday / that we live here in the U.S.A. / And from my heart all I can say is Happy Birthday, Jesus" ("I Love Christmas," 2004).
Overall quality: Even the indie-label eclecticism of Disc Two sounds good.
Style: Layered, soaring, often minor-key pop accompanying thought-provoking lyrics.
Worldview: Christian (the group is on Credential Recordings), but not overtly so: "Say what you think, but please say it in love" ("Patience"); "I will bite my tongue, / and I won't say a word 'til all the listening is done" (the title cut).
Overall quality: This Cincinnati quartet not only comes from the show-don't-tell school but also seems to be on its way toward graduating with honors; an admirable and attention-holding blend of easy music and difficult lyrics.
Style: Three discs of rodeo-friendly country music as sung by everyone from Gene Autry, Bob Wills, and Merle Haggard to Charlie Daniels, George Strait, and Montgomery Gentry (subtitle: 50 Songs Celebrate 50 Years of Cowboy Tradition).
Worldview: That the spirit celebrated by the annual Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (the subject of the liner booklet) and the spirit celebrated by traditional country singers are one and the same.
Overall quality: Neither redundant (lots of obscurities) nor narrow; music to remember the foreign policy of George W. Bush by.
Beginning with "Hanky Panky," continuing through "Crimson and Clover" and "Mony Mony," and concluding with 1980's "Three Times in Love," Tommy James-both with and without the Shondells-was one of pop music's most efficient and innovative hit machines. Collectors' Choice/Rhino's two-disc 40 Years: The Complete Singles Collection (1966-2006), as much for its anecdote-filled liner booklet as for its music, should lengthen the short shrift that he tends to be given by rock 'n' roll historians.
In addition to tunes long familiar to baby boomers, there are pleasant surprises-the influence of gospel music on James' music from 1968 to 1972, for instance, and the catchiness of the heretofore uncollected recent tracks on Disc Two. Perhaps most interesting of all, especially given the reluctance of aging rockers to put aside childish things, is 2006's "Hold the Fire." "The mirror doesn't lie," he sings. "You're growing old. . . . / Now you've got a funny feeling nothing lasts forever." Contemporary Ecclesiastes Music, anyone?