As with his previous album, the astonishing career-best Praise & Blame, Tom Jones, a sleek and foxy 72, has again - aided by his hugely talented producer-guitarist Ethan Johns - come up with a remarkable piece of work.
Where Praise & Blame was a powerful slice of rocking gospel blues, this is mostly a more contemplative album, but with the same sense of ominous immediacy, down partly to the superb production (why didn`t Jones & Johns meet years ago!) but also to a new intimacy in Tom`s now-grainier voice. This is a set of hand-picked songs by the best there is: Dylan, Cohen, Waits, McCartney, Paul Simon, Richard Thompson, Mickey Newbury, and a coruscating blues - Soul Of A Man - courtesy of Blind Willie Johnson for good measure. Not to forget the wonderful Charlie Darwin, a brilliantly enigmatic song by the band Low Anthem.
His take on Bad As Me, a recent song by Tom Waits, is just right - please may he do more Waits on later albums - and his version of Leonard Cohen`s Tower Of Song does it full justice. He chooses one of Dylan`s finest 21st century songs to close with (at least he does on the edition with extra tracks, which I strongly recommend buying) in the shape of When The Deal Goes Down. It suits TJ down to the ground.
Richard Thompson`s Dimming Of The Day isn`t an obvious choice for the Welshman`s tonsils, but it turns out to be a straight and ultimately touching performance of a lovely song. And I wouldn`t be surprised if it`s one of Thompson`s favourite covers of his songs, too.
I had never bought a Tom Jones album until Praise & Blame. When I heard that, I had to have this.
I can`t stop playing both.