It goes without saying that B.J. Thomas is one of music's most versatile voices of all time. He's had success with pop, gospel, A/C, and country over the years. So, it's no surprise that his influence has cut a wide path over each of those formats. His new disc, "The Living Room Sessions," features duet performances with artists from many different genres. Thomas told Billboard that the idea to re-record his hits was something that he has long resisted.
"We got involved with Sandy Knox and Katie Gillon, and this great company they have in Wrinkled Records," he said of his new musical partners. "We were so excited because they are such great music people that when they suggested we do the hits unplugged, e thought it's a great way to re-introduce ourselves. I've always been kind of a low-key guy. If I don't have a record out, I'm pretty quiet. There are also some plans to do some other music in the future. It was a very relaxed, stress free setting, and I hope people will feel good when they hear it."
One cut that brings those feel-good vibes is the classic "(Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song," a No. 1 hit for Thomas from 1975 on the country charts as well as the Hot 100. For the new version, Thomas was joined by Richard Marx.
"He brought so much to the track. I think it was a song that meant something to him back when it was a hit. We told him to pick what he wanted to do, and that was his choice."
Another treat for Thomas was pairing up with Lyle Lovett for his 1969 signature song "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head." Thomas said the song really fit Lovett's style.
"I've known Lyle for years, and he's such an iconic figure in music, and also as a person. He's from Texas, and I am too. I think Sandy asked me if I would be interested in him singing on this project, and I said I would love for him to. I spoke to him on the phone, and he said he had done some music with Burt Bacharach, and I said ‘Why don't you do ‘Raindrops?' I think he brought a lot to it. He's a cool guy to work with. I hope we do some performances in the future."
The impact of "Raindrops" - originally from "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" is one that the singer still feels over four decades later – though it almost didn't happen.
"That was a life-changing record for me. I look it as a privilege to have been able to do it. We cut it in September 1969. There were a lot of problems surrounding the song, and some of the producers and actors in the movie didn't want a song in it. Robert Redford was one of them. They meant for it to be an Avant garde art film, which it was different for its' time. For whatever reasons – probably Burt Bacharach being such a great composer and Hal David being an equally great lyricist, it worked, and it became a very big record."
Each cut brought back a wave of memories for Thomas, especially 1970's "Most Of All," which features the vocal stylings of Keb' Mo'.
"I cut that with Buddy Buie and Steve Tyrell in Georgia. The studio group that was on the original was the Atlanta Rhythm Section, just a great band. They played it for me, and then they turned on the machines, and I got it on the first take. It was like a song I already knew. We had sense to stop after that. It's a song about a guy who is away from home, and he realizes who he loves the most. I identify with it very personally. Keb' Mo' must have been the same way. He came in the studio, and stayed about five hours. He invested so much time in internalizing the song, ad-libbed a few things, and did such a great job."
All in all, Thomas told Billboard it felt great going back in time, yet adding a new wrinkle to his past hits. "It's been unbelievable. I don't spend a lot of time thinking ‘Oh, these guys like my music,' but everyone that is on here, I so admire them as musicians and singers. It's very rewarding."