Tom Jones: The Tom Jones Fever Zone
Tom Jones, Tom Jones, Tom Jones! There is a lot I could say, especially considering the length of his career. But because this album is from the tail end of his popularity in the ’60s, I shall focus on that.
By this time Mr. Jones already had a string of hits. He didn’t write them, but numbers like “What’s New Pussycat” and “It’s Not Unusual” were originals. Here is where Tom donned the Tuxedo, and became king of the covers. On “Green, Green, Grass of Home” he followed Ray Charles’ lead and went down the country road. For “The Tom Jones Fever Zone” it was time to tackle soul (with a few diversions included). The rocking, panty catching, Mr. Vegas image we now have of the legend was born.
One thing we have now known for a long time is that Tom Jones does a great job of covering other people’s hits. This is the album where it really began. Many people think that his versions are cheesy. This is largely due to the fact that the arrangements are generally sanitized versions of the originals, but there is a certain appeal to the treatment he gives the material. One thing for sure, he makes the songs his own.
“Don’t fight It” has a really tight groove, and is jammed with gusto. As you would expect, the vocal is what sells it (that’s what we’re here for anyway, right?). Tom got right on top of this one. He wails the high notes, growls the lows, and even yelps. Right from the beginning, all the cards are on the table (almost).
It is no surprise that “You Keep Me Hanging On” is closer to the Supremes than Vanilla Fudge. No great revelations on this track, just quality Jones crooning.
“Hold On I’m Comin’,” “I Was Made to Love Her,” “Keep on Running” and “Get Ready” are all performed right from the gut. Listening to these tracks makes me think that Tom could have been very successful fronting a soul or R&B group (a fact that I will further expound upon in another review). His style is well suited this kind of music.
The next songs are what made up side two. With the exception of the last track, there are no more soul numbers. These are more like the Vegas standards. It leads off with “Delilah,” one of the last of his non-cover hits. The other standard numbers are done with just the right mix of poignancy and bravado to make them Jones keepers.
The highlight on this side (other than Delilah) is “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” The backing orchestra, and Jones’ lamenting interpretation make it vastly different from the James Brown classic. This alone might be worth the price of the album.
There was another album released right after this, called “Delilah,” but the song appeared here first. The title alone probably made it a bigger seller. So “The Tom Jones Fever Zone” went out of print. There is another package with a slightly different song list that was originally released on vinyl, and is now available on CD, called ‘”13 Smash Hits.” If you can piece it together from different albums (like I did), it’s worth the effort. This is Tom at his peak, and some of his best recordings from the era. Give it a shot. The brilliance of Tom Jones should not so easily be dismissed.
Tom Jones – himself
Peter Sullivan – Producer
Johnny Harris – musical director
Charles Blackwell – musical director