Tom Jones & Jools Holland
Tom Jones is basically known for two things musically. The first is keeping current by covering contemporary music. This often involves collaboration with some established hit makers as on 1999’s “Reload.” The other is stepping out of his comfort zone (or what the general public sees as such), and experimenting. Obvious examples of this are 1983’s “Tom Jones Country” and 2002’s “Mr Jones.” In 2004 he did a little bit of both and Teamed up with piano man, and former Squeeze member, Jools Holland. The result was a boogie-woogie, blues, jazz standard, Dixieland extravaganza. Oddly enough, I don’t think Jones ever swung or rocked as much on any other album. All of his success aside, he was born to sing this music.
From his “Whooo-whooooo… yeah” on “life’s Too Short to be With You” to his subdued croon on the standard “Glory of Love,” The attitude and timbre are perfect. That goes to Jools as well. He can pound the keys with bravado, and tinkle them with finesse while always providing the perfect element and skill. The band is also extremely tight. The sax is wonderfully gritty when needed, the horns always in perfect sync, and the back up singers rivaled only by the likes of The Raelettes.
This music is well known to just about everyone (at least in form), and I have rarely heard it performed better. I can’t tell you how many versions of “St. James’ Infirmary Blues” I have heard, but this is now my favorite. Not all of the selections are tried and true, so that leads me to believe they were chosen for the band and not the consumer. Which actually makes it better for the listener. They took they classics they wanted to do, and breathed a whole lot of new life into them.
This is one of those albums that I almost wish didn’t have well known names on it. If it was released secretly, under a pseudonym, it may have gotten more attention. I am sure there were many who scoffed at the idea just because it was Tom Jones. Those who only know Jools Holland from Squeeze may have had a similar prejudice. So, it really should be taken on it’s own. Don’t think about “What’s New Pussycat” or “Cool for Cats.” If you want a solid fun album of great boogie-woogie and jazz standards with excellent performances, look no further.