on 7 July 2012
I rememberTom Jones at the beginning of his career, full of the intensity of youth and singing pop, so, in my book, fairly lightweight. Over the years he has transformed himself into something much more serious, by embracing the medium of gospel. In both this and his subsequent gospel disc he expresses in a deeply moving way what it is to grow old. He moves beyond popular culturally sanctioned cliche to look at the ideas, philosophical and religious, that become more and more salient to us as the years pass and we come nearer the end than the beginning. I congratulate Tom on his courage in making this musical transition and to do so successfully.
I have to say that I have been impressed with Tom Jones's recent output. Having given up on being down with the kids and moving to more reflective material that acknowledges where he is in life he has found a new creative vein to mine. This excellent album continues along that vein, and once again he strikes gold.
His previous album, the excellent 2010 release `Praise an Blame', started him on the road of reflective blues and gospel numbers, with minimal backing and utilising his slower, lower delivery rather than his (rightly) famous powerful belting voice. This album is much the same, but with a richer range of tracks that allow Mr. Jones to really express himself.
First up is a cover of Leonard Cohen's `Tower Of Song'. It's a well chosen piece and Jones's voice caresses Cohen's lyrics, almost like a poetry recital, as pours his heart and soul into what is a moving reflection on his place in the world. It's a powerful track.
The next standout track for me is a cover of Blind Willie Johnson's `Soul of Man'. With a restrained electric guitar backing Jones starts to shift gear a little from the low slow delivery, and begins with a more powerful style. It's the best version of the track I have heard, it's an infectious track that will just get into your soul.
Those are just two stand out tracks. The album ebbs and flows in pace, with a gradual rising in pace and force followed by a sudden return to the slow delivery. There is a great choice of covers, from the straight gospel of the self penned `Tavellin'Shoes' to the anarchic Tom Waits plea `Bad As Me'. There is room for a nod to folk (Richard Thompson's gorgeous `Dimming of the day') straight blues, and Paul McCartney and Paul Simon covers.
The album shows a man reflecting on life, admitting his mistakes and showing us what he is. It's an album that also gives glimpses of a man who still enjoys life and can still mix it up when necessary. Most importantly it is an album of great music that bears repeated listening and will really get under your skin.
This might be an album in which Jones comes to terms with his age, but it's no pipe and slippers by the fireside effort. The raw power of his voice is still much in evidence, as is his artistry. This is no vain hanging on to old glories, such as Rod Stewart's recent output, or Sinatra's end of career material. And how many from his generation remain as creative? Paul McCartney or Cliff Richards' recent output isn't a patch on this moving material. Jones still has something to say, and is finding fresh and new ways that are genuinely exciting to hear in which to say it.
In this and his previous album Jones has revealed himself to be a man steeped in musical history and knowledge, and a superb interpreter of other people's material. I would rate this alongside some of Johnny Cash's `American' material, not a comparison I make lightly. It's a truly great album, and lets hope that this creative streak continues for years to come. 5 stars.
on 24 May 2012
Fundamentally, what Tom has done has been to listen to Solomon Burke's Don't Give Up On Me and Nashville, and combine it with the late period renaissance of Johnny Cash.
Both this album, and Praise & Blame, have their roots in the albums of messrs Burke and Cash. Burke misfired, as he followed up Don't Give Up On Me with an over-produced, poorly selected album, Make Do With What You Got: Don Was being the culprit. Tom shows no sign of doing this, but I'd steer clear of the shallow reality TV Shows for the air-headed generation on Saturday evenings, and concentrate on being a serious artist.
I would add that the roots of this album were shown in Tom rediscovering his blues mojo on the Mike Figgis documentary Red, White, & Blue, and on the collaboration with Jools Holland.
The album in question has some amazing tracks. I appreciate the track Charlie Darwin, particularly, as it combines folk with almost Hilliard Ensemble chanting. Tom is also unafraid of that great non-voice Bob Dylan, in that he covers When The Deal Goes Down - 21st century Dylan to boot. Likewise, I am sure Tom found Lone Pilgrim on Dylan's 1993 blues/folk album World Gone Wrong. I would also add that All Blues Hail Mary is a Joe Henry cover, and that Joe produced Solomon Burke's comeback album, Don't Give Up On Me. I wonder what Tom could do if he explores more of Joe's back catalogue. A cover of Stop would be amazing, or God only Knows.
What Tom does to Just Dropped In also shows that he has stripped this song to it's essence, and that it is far superior to Willie Nelson's cover on The Great Divide.
Tower of Song shows that Tom's gift as an interpreter remains strong. Marianne Faithfull also covered this to aplomb, as did Martha Wainwright. I wonder what Tom could do to Everybody Knows, or Waiting For The Miracle. Maybe they could be next.
Dimming of The Day is oft-covered, and was Richard Thompson's sufi devotional hymn from Pour Down Like Silver; a great album in its own right. Lately, Alison Krauss did a marvellous version on the Transatlantic Sessions. Bonnie Raitt did a version with Paul Brady. Again, you wonder if Tom is singing about a woman or a higher power. It is astonishingly beautiful. You also wonder how Tom would do, covering Dylan's I Believe in You, or Pressing On, or Every Grain of Sand.
Bad As Me is Tom doing Tom Waits. It's a great cover, but I wonder how Tom would cope with a Waits ballad. Could he do something absolutely transcendental, like Cash doing Down There By The Train, or Innocent When You Dream, or Diamond In Your Mind. Tom doing Innocent When You Dream would be amazing, or even The Fall of Troy. It also knocks Rod Stewart's mangling of Downtown Train and Tom Traubert's Blues into the proverbial cocked hat. You could also wonder what Tom would be like doing Black Wings.
Soul of A Man is the old Blind Willie Johnson gospel blues number. Couple that with Odetta's Hit or Miss, and you know that Tom is no longer the knicker-throwing medallion man, but a serious blues scholar. This isn't Chicago, this is the real folk blues. You wonder if a Robert Johnson tribute album, or Tom cutting loose on Charley Patton would be a viable option next. Certainly, he covered Howlin Wolf's Evil last year with Jack White, and Wolf was influenced by Charley Paton.
All in all, buy the deluxe version: it is great. You just wonder though what is next ? Tom sings Beefheart wouldn't be that much of a surprise. Imagine Sure Enuff n Yes I do done by him, with an amazing slide guitar solo ?
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.
on 25 May 2012
This is definitely an even bigger hit than Praise & Blame (2010) and I would even go as far as saying that Sir Tom has found his new self. This style really suits him. This album will both make old fans very happy and bring new fans to the immortal superstar that is Tom Jones.
on 2 December 2015
A late-period classic from a guy we all thought was a bump-and-grind Vegas act. Just a terrific artistic curveball and part of a late period trilogy which puts the Welshman into the hip Indie/Folk bag and as far away from Tahoe, Reno and Vegas as he could artistically get. If you like the Handsome Family, early Ryan Adams, Lucinda Williams, the Coal Porters, solo Richard Thompson and so forth and so on then this platter is for you. Contains at least four classic cuts and the rest is pretty groovy as well.
on 9 September 2012
Bought for my wife who says 'I love it. This album has everything I appreciate in Tom Jones; timbre, timing and dynamics. At his best singing blues and these are excellent song choices. The final track 'Charlie Darwin' delivers both the moving poetry of the words and the stirring, eerie atmosphere of its location. The production is very good. I'm playing and playing it.'
on 20 July 2013
Away from the showbiz and the duets . We find Tom in contemporary mode. Starting with Leonard Cohen's Tower Of Song.. very emotive... a getting- long- in- the- tooth tale, and he actually matches Mr Cohen on this class song ( I ache in the places where I used to play, like life is a kick in the balls many will relate to this). (I Want To)Come Home, where you know you've been away too long but home keeps calling written by Paul McCartney. Hit Or Miss do it your way be yourself and just go for it. Love And Blessings is just that. Soul Of A Man written by Blind Willie Johnson sounds so heart felt, great. Bad As Me... like it or not we are not that different. Dimming Of The Day says that the night is a lonely place. Travelling Shoes is wonderful stuff , just give it a listen. All Blues Hail Mary , nice and deep.Charlie Darwin is new to me but works so well. Not a song out of place on this album. Tom really does subtle. This album got a better reception than the previous, Praise And Blame. maybe it took people by surprise, I love them both equally.I just played this album to my mate and he thinks this is Jones the voice's perfect direction.
This new album from Tom is very similar to 2010's 'Praise & Blame' but with slightly less emphasis on gospel and blues and more on high-class AOR. Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon, Ray LaMontagne) retains the producers chair but for me this time round there isn't quite the same magic, I didn't think that the versions of Blind Willie Johnson's "Soul of a Man", Tom Waits' "Bad As Me" and Richard Thompson's "Dimming of the day" quite worked (although they are all great songs). However, I did think that Tom's version of "All blues hail Mary" was better than Joe Henry's original and I loved Tom's version of Leonard Cohen's "Tower of song" especially when he gets to sing "I was born with the gift of a golden voice"! Most of the other songs were OK, in particular Paul Simon's "Love and blessings", but for me this wasn't quite the masterpiece it should have been.
on 5 July 2012
I heard a few tracks from this on Bob Harris's Radio show together with an excellent interview.
Very impressed with this album, the first TJ I've ever bought, although I could do without rehashed Tom Waits!
The album's good and inspired me to go to see him live at the Hammersmith Apollo. Now I'm a Tom Jones fan.
At 72 years old, his voice is amazing, he actually bothers to talk in an unaffected way to the audience, and has a technical and emotional vocal abilities second to none.
He is a truly great singer bringing good songs to life - usually far better than those who wrote them. He and his band can play anything to the highest standard - rock, bloues, gospel, country, folk, funk - you name it.
He played for nearly 2.5 hours and there was never a dull moment. This man is not a legend for nothing!