A better idea on paper than it is in reality - and not a fantastic idea on paper - Reload sees Tom Jones duetting with 17 artistes of the younger generation (and Van Morrison). So ... Robbie Williams strains to sound hoarse on Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way"; James Dean Bradfield and the Stereophonics rival their mentor in the butch-and-Welsh stakes; and the likes of Space, Portishead, Natalie Imbruglia and the Divine Comedy fail to disguise the fact that they were invited along more for their bankability than their suitability. Reload is camp, glitzy fun, destined to be played at parties everywhere. But if you don't have a drink in your hand, it's grating. The fatal flaw is that Jones is just not a duettist: the big ham always moans and roars as if he's tearing telephone directories in half, with no sensitivity for what he's singing or who he's singing it with. And only a few of the songs here befit the duet form any more than Jones does. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is a Las Vegas showstopper thanks to Cerys Matthews's cheeky turn, while Van Morrison retains his dignity by playing it straight on "Sometimes We Cry". Otherwise, Reload is divided between tracks which would be better without Jones on them and tracks that would be better with Jones alone.
CD OF THE WEEK
You'd guess from Supergrass's apparently random lyrics that the band don't know what to write about - it's been a long time since the neat narrative of "Caught By the Fuzz" - and the trio's third album is self- titled because, they admit, they couldn't come up with a proper title. Maybe they should have plumped for "The Birth of The Seventies". "Eon" is a Who epic, "Jesus Came From Outta Space" a glam-rock opera. "Faraway" is Ziggy Stardust, the coda of "Your Love" could be by the Doors. And on "Pumping On Your Stereo", Gaz Coombes affects a slurred Jagger sneer, while his brother Rob pounds out an Elton John piano part. There is almost no hint of any more recent influences or technology. What Supergrass bring to the party is skill, tightness, conviction and, from Gaz, one of the most electrifying voices in pop. These are enough to make a
very listenable album; some thoughts and concerns of the band's own would be required to make an essential one.