Sonny James portrait Sonny James was one of the big country crooners of the 1960s and '70s, an enormously successful recording artist who started out as something of a "teen" singer during the '50s pop-vocals era. His style easily adapted to the Nashville Sound of the '60s and the more bland end of the countrypolitan spectrum. I can't say as I'm really a huge fan: James had a robust, resonant voice, but his material was resolutely staid and square. There are some gems, though... Let's take a look!




Discography -- Best-Ofs

Sonny James "Sonny Rocks" (Bear Family, 2003)
A good survey of his early work, including some rockabilly-styled material, and a lot of teen ballads. Includes some fun stuff, although I'm kind of bummed they didn't include the somewhat risque "Teenage Touch," a real rocker with a great beat and kind of questionable lyrics. Still, this is a good way to hear a relatively unpolished Sonny James at the start of his career...


Sonny James "The RCA Sessions" (Bear Family, 1994)
Similar territory... Early Sonny James (and Roy Orbison) recordings made for RCA before James signed with Capitol (and Orbison with Monument)...


Sonny James "Young Love: The Classic Hits Of Sonny James" (Razor & Tie, 1997)
A strong collection of a weak artist... Well, that's not entirely fair: Sonny James was a good singer, but he was also one of the most pop-oriented and milquetoast-y of the country crooners. It's understandable, though, since his first big hit was a teenpop ballad, "Young Love," which topped the Pop and Country charts in 1956... "Young Love" was indeed a great pop tune, but the many ballads that followed were less satisfying, and what "country" material he did mostly lacked bite. This disc is interesting in that it includes a couple of early '50s Sonny James recordings that show him doing the whole Hank Williams imitator gig, but then, well, along comes "Young Love." James travelled much the same path as his contemporary Marty Robbins, but was a less distinctive stylist and a less imaginative performer, and by the end of this disc I found myself restless and bored. Still, if you want to check him out, this would be a fine place to start. Loyal fans will be quite pleased.


Sonny James "Capitol Collector's Series" (Capitol, 1990)


Sonny James "The Complete Columbia & Monument Hits" (Collector's Choice, 2002)
Collecting pretty much all of Sonny's '70s hits, recorded from 1972 (when he left Capitol) to 1978 (when he left the charts...) To be honest, this material is pretty strained; I was never that big of a Sonny James fan to begin with, but by the time these tracks were recorded, his proclivity towards soft, goopy crooning had become less of a stylistic choice and more of an inevitability. His voice sounds pretty weak here, reminiscent of Eddy Arnold (in his later years) and Hank Snow (at his sleepiest)... Mostly, though, it's the material and the arrangements that fail to inspire. Still, these were all verifiable hits, and longtime fans will be delighted to find them all gathered together on one, generously programmed reissue disc.


Sonny James "The Best Of Sonny James/Only The Lonely" (Disky, 2003)
A twofer reissue combining a pair of old Capitol LPs, The Best Of Sonny James from 1966, and 1969's Only The Lonely.




Discography -- Albums

Sonny James "The Southern Gentleman" (Capitol, 1957)


Sonny James "Sonny" (Capitol, 1957)


Sonny James "Honey" (Capitol, 1957)


Sonny James "The Sonny Side" (Capitol, 1959)


Sonny James "The Minute You're Gone" (Capitol, 1963)


Sonny James "You're The Only World I Know" (Capitol, 1964)


Sonny James "I'll Keep Holding On (Just To Your Love)" (Capitol, 1965)


Sonny James "Behind The Tear" (Capitol, 1965)


Sonny James "True Love's A Blessing" (Capitol, 1965)


Sonny James "Till The Last Leaf Shall Fall" (Capitol, 1966)


Sonny James "My Christmas Dream" (Capitol, 1966) (LP)


Sonny James "Need You" (Capitol, 1967)


Sonny James "I'll Never Find Another You" (Capitol, 1967)


Sonny James "A World Of Our Own" (Capitol, 1967)


Sonny James "Heaven Says Hello" (Capitol, 1968)


Sonny James "Born To Be With You" (Capitol, 1968)


Sonny James "Only The Lonely" (Capitol, 1969)


Sonny James "The Astrodome Presents: In Person Sonny James" (Capitol, 1969)


Sonny James "It's Just A Matter Of Time" (Capitol, 1970)


Sonny James "My Love/Don't Keep Me Hangin' On" (Capitol, 1970)


Sonny James "The Biggest Hits In Country Music" (Capitol, 1970)


Sonny James "Empty Arms" (Capitol, 1971)


Sonny James "The Sensational Sonny James" (Capitol, 1971)


Sonny James "Here Comes Honey Again" (Capitol, 1971)


Sonny James "That's Why I Love You Like I Do" (Capitol, 1972)


Sonny James "The Greatest Country Hits Of '72" (Columbia, 1973)


Sonny James "If She Helps Me Get Over You" (Columbia, 1973)


Sonny James "Is It Wrong?" (Columbia, 1974)


Sonny James "Mis Esposa Con Amor (To My Wife With Love)" (Columbia, 1974)


Sonny James "A Little Bit South Of Saskatoon/Little Band Of Gold" (Columbia, 1975)


Sonny James "The Guitars Of Sonny James" (Columbia, 1975)


Sonny James "Country Male Artist Of The Decade" (Columbia, 1975)


Sonny James "200 Years Of Country Music" (Columbia, 1976)


Sonny James "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby" (Columbia, 1976)


Sonny James "You're Free To Go" (Columbia, 1977)


Sonny James "In Prison, In Person" (Columbia, 1977)


Sonny James "This Is The Love" (Columbia, 1978)


Sonny James "Sunny Side Up" (Monument, 1979)


Sonny James "I'm Looking Over The Rainbow" (Dimension, 1982)




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