Album: Tom Jones, Praise & Blame (Island)
It's not that unusual: Tom Jones goes back to the roots
Sunday 25 July 2010
Before anyone outside the record industry had heard a note, the smoke signals surrounding Tom Jones' latest album were not positive.
In a much-publicised leaked email, David Sharpe, an executive at Island (the label which Jones joined in 2009 from his long-time home of EMI in a £1.5 million deal), complained that the Welshman was "singing hymns", called the album a "sick joke", and raged "we did not invest a fortune in an established artist for him to deliver 12 tracks from the Book of Common Prayer". Now that the dust has settled from the furore – which some claimed, not entirely convincingly, to be a publicity stunt – we can finally make up our own minds.
The truth is nothing of the sort. What's happened on Praise & Blame is that Jones, having dipped a leathery toe into the world of Ronson-esque retro-soul with 2008's 24 Hours, has gone the whole hog and taken things right back to the source, ie raw bottleneck blues and gospel. And, if he can repeat the success of Johnny Cash's American Recordings (the blueprint for many a back-to-basics effort by an elderly star), Island will have no complaints.
Of its 11 songs, more than half have no attributed author other than "trad.", and the rest were written by the likes of Bob Dylan, John Lee Hooker and Billy Joe Shaver. Produced by Ethan Jones in Peter Gabriel's Real World studios with guests such as Booker T of the MGs, its sound is rootsy in a Willie Nelson-meets-White Stripes vein, and Jones' septuagenar-ian rasp suits it well. And if many of the tracks do indeed have themes of sin and redemption, in keeping with the cover photo of an old Spanish mission, they often have an evocative American gothic feel, best exemplified by Hooker's "Burning Hell" ("I'm going down to the crossroads/With no Devil will I make a deal...").
However, old habits die hard, and the silly boogie-woogie of "Don't Knock" and "Didn't It Rain" stray into familiar Las Vegas knicker- magnet territory, while "Run On" is in danger of turning into Chris Rea. Sharpe's reported explanation – "I paid for a Mercedes and ended up with a hearse" – is only half-right. At worst, it's a decent family hatchback.
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Avengers: Age of Ultron: Nearly 700 German cinemas refuse to show movie
- 2 Donald Trump decides that Baltimore riots are Barack Obama's fault
- 3 X Factor in crisis as numbers of people auditioning plummets
- 4 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
- 5 Baltimore riots: Furious mother marches her son home live on TV
Fast & Furious 7 overtakes Frozen to become 5th highest grossing movie of all time
Poldark finale review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Avengers: Age of Ultron: Nearly 700 German cinemas refuse to show movie
Game of Thrones season 5: Episode 4 preview clip presents the Sand Snakes as HBO reveals new titles and synopses
The Visit: Watch terrifying trailer for M Night Shyamalan's latest horror film
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia