Tom Jones: Praise & Blame
If you have heard anything about Tom Jone’s latest album, it was probably the story of Island Records V.P. David Sharpe calling it a “sick joke,” and wanting to halt the project. Apparently he didn’t like the musical direction of “Praise and Blame.” Instead of anther “Reload” or “24 Hours,” Tom chose a different path, and did a stripped down album of roots blues and gospel covers. Typical. The execs only want more of the same, and they wonder why the music industry is dying (here’s a clue, it isn’t illegal downloading). Thankfully the side of good prevailed in this case, and we were given what may be the strongest artistic statement of Sir Tom’s long career.
Okay, it’s been done before. Most notably by Johnny Cash. However this really is the album Tom was meant to do. The band is just bass, drums, guitar, some back up singers, and it was recorded live. This allows Toms’ heart and soul to shine through. It is just his raw talent and personality in the forefront. This is obvious at the get go with his slow emotional vocal on Bob Dylan’s “What Good am I.”
What is also impressive is his knack for this music. If you didn’t know anything about this artist, you might have thought he was raised on the delta, or Chicago, instead of Wales. “Lord Help” and “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” sound like you could have heard the same performances by an old bluesman at Kingston Mines (classic Chicago blues joint). “Burning Hell” is such a good ripping base blues with grungy guitar, that I can’t even do it justice by describing it. But I will mention a bit of Jimmy Page essence in the guitar work (click the picture for a video).
The gospel work comes straight from the heart. They may not be his, and were written long before the popularity of panty tossing, but the sentiments are obviously very personal. It seems as if Mr. Jones may struggle with his own faith, which provides the credibility with which he sings.
Also included is a smattering of ’50s style blues based rock with songs like “Don’t Knock” and “Didn’t it Rain.” If you heard the Jools Holland album, you know he does this very well.
Well, much to Mr. Sharpe’s chagrin, Tom Jones did not deliver “24 Hours: part II.” And that is a good thing. Did we really need another straight up, good but predictable T.J. album? As much as I do enjoy those, there is one flaw. No matter how current Tom tries to be, his vocal style always seems a bit dated. This music is timeless and so is the treatment he gives it. At 70 years old, an icon has delivered the album of a lifetime. Truly inspiring. Even from a purely objective point of view, this is one heck of an album. Get it!
Tom Jones – Vocals
Ethan Johns – guitar, banjo, bass, mellotron, producer
B.J. Cole – guitar
Dave Bronze – bass
Ian Jennings – bass
Booker T. Jones – piano, Hammond B3
Augie Meyers – Farfisa organ
Christopher Holland – organ
Richard Causon – harmonium
Benmont Tench – piano
Henry Spinetti – drums
Jeremy Stacey – drums