Fucking hell. When did Tom Jones become cool? Did it happen sometime this summer or fall? And how is that even possible? It’s like some bizarro universe we’ve stepped into here.
Don’t get me wrong. I always thought the guy had a hell of a voice, and he deserves credit for fighting his producers to get people like Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chet Atkins, and Richard Pryor on his variety show that aired in the late 1960s and early 1970s. But his music and the whole “ladies’ man with approximately as much chest hair as Sean Connery” image always screamed cheese to me.
I can dig “It’s Not Unusual” and a few other songs if they come on in a restaurant, but there was never anything there I really wanted to listen to more than once or twice. Unlike Scott Walker, who could have very well turned into a cheesy balladeer but instead ran screaming from the middle of the road and sent his golden voice off to another planet to make insane, uncompromising, bizarre music like nothing else, Tom seemed to stay in the same comfortable place, right in the middle of that road.
The other day I read something about a new Tom Jones album with a gospel/blues flavour. I thought that sounded like it could be a little interesting. There had been a review in a recent Mojo magazine, but I missed it, assuming it was more of the same old cheesy stuff.
I checked out a few songs. My jaw hit my genitals. The CD has now been ordered and will hopefully get here sometime next week.
I say again — fucking hell.
I’m stunned by how good this stuff is. The man is now seventy years old, and he still sings better than most people a third of his age. The difference is, now the music is stripped of all the schmaltz, and with age comes wisdom, and all that jazz. He even finally threw out all that black hair dye! Maybe letting go of a bit of vanity and getting comfortable with the idea of getting older has something to do with the seismic shift in musical direction.
But I mean…he covers a Bob Dylan song — and a great, unjustly neglected one at that — and does it at least as well as Bob, if not better. That’s not easy to do. Outside of Jimi Hendrix doing “All Along the Watchtower” and maybe a few Dylan covers on Rod Stewart’s early solo albums before he sold his soul to Satan, I’ve rarely heard a cover of a Bob Dylan song that sounded to me like it justified its existence.
This shouldn’t compute. And yet somehow it does.
Needless to say, my feelings about Tom have just been completely upended. I don’t get excited about new music very often, but I’m really looking forward to the day when this one shows up at Dr. Disc.