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.
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Three-year-old boy shoots pregnant mother and father in New Mexico
- 2 Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
- 3 Jewish community urged to boycott Cornwall village after residents vote for 'Hitlers Walk' sign to be reinstated
- 4 Benedict Cumberbatch's Alan Turing gay-rights campaign snubbed by Prince William and Kate Middleton
- 5 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Daniel Radcliffe deemed 'not marketable' without his English accent
Gorillaz Phase 4: Cartoon supergroup is back as new artwork is unveiled
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
As Better Call Saul launches, here are the other spin-off shows we need to see
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
President Putin is a dangerous psychopath - reason is not going to work with him
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign