Tom Jones: 24 Hours
I saw some press calling this a Tom Jones come back album. The justification being that this was his first album released in the U.S. in fifteen years. That may be true, but isn’t this the digital age? I also didn’t have a problem getting CD copies of “Reload,” “Mr. Jones,” or “Tom Jones and Jools Holland.” He hadn’t gone anywhere, and the gap in new material had actually only been four years.
What did come back was the classic T.J. sound. The studio techniques may be state of the art, and writing collaboration with modern artists, but the style is right from the glory days of the ’60s. If they had ever made a sequel to “What’s New Pussycat,” many of these tracks could easily have been on the soundtrack. In fact, “24 Hours” would have made a good partner with “The Tom Jones Fever Zone.”
Tom returned to the old formula, and it worked. He begins screaming out “I’m Alive,” and boy is he. I can’t think of any of his contemporaries (let alone many who followed) that still have the chords to belt one out like this. The song jams full and loud, but has a wonderfully jangly ’60s style guitar to let you know where it’s coming from.
“”If I Should Ever Leave You” follows right in line with a classic brassy style, and a powerful croon by Tom. The only obvious modern touch is the beats, and this carries on throughout.
“We Got Love” starts getting closer to that groovy lounge jazz of the era, and believe me, that’s a very good thing.
Next it’s soul time on “Feels Like Music.” If you know anything about Mr. Jones, he is one of the best soul singers of all time.
Sow how about a fun little funky R&B jam? “Give a Little Love” is completely irresistible, and Tom is smack in the middle of the zone.
“The Road” is a cool smooth R&B number that has more to it than meets the eye. It is a confessional written by Tom for his wife. It has to do with his straying over the years, and how he always came back to her. Think what you will, but you have to respect the openhearted honesty. Plus, it’s a pretty good tune as well.
“In Style and Rhythm” is my favorite track. This is pure lounge jazz along the stylistic lines of Michel Legrand’s “Di-gue-ding-ding,” only with bigger balls (what would you expect?). I could easily imagine myself as David Niven, driving a small sports car in the French Rivera on the set of “The Pink Panther,” while listening to this. It’s awesome!
Collaboration Time. Okay, so he didn’t write anything on his own, but there was a consistent compositional team on the album. “Sugar Daddy” was written for their mentor by Bono and The Edge, and they also perform on the track. It does have a more modern feel, but there is enough classic soul for the song to fit right in.
“Seasons” is a down tempo pseudo gospel, and we also know that this is another Jones strength.
“Never” comes very close to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.
Tom Jones does Springsteen. Yep, you read that right. His cover of “The Hitter ” is done poignantly, and nicely gravelly.
“Seen That Face” feels a bit out of place, and is the weakest track on the album. It seems as if he was trying to channel a Prince ballad. It’s not bad, but not all that strong either. The vocal however is great as usual.
The title track seems an unusual choice, as it is a battle lament. The drum roll sets the tome, and Tom spins a tale of a man who sees his time running out. Could he be seeing the end of his own road? Possibly, but it is still a fitting closer for the album.
So after all of his different roads of experimentation, and keeping up with changing music, Tom Jones went back to what made him a star. It’s that perfected act of walking the tightrope over the vat of boiling cheese. While some may bubble up and splash on Tom, he never falls all the way in. I have seen other artists go back to their roots, and it just seems like grasping for something to hold on to. But this is a man who has always been able to succeed despite all expectations. “24 Hours” is a welcome homage to himself.