26 October 2013

Tom Jones - Praise And Blame

Sometimes I'm a real glutton for punishment. All the acts that we love to hate, yes, yes, yes! I am referring to the overproduced bubblegum burst pop acts that saturate our airwaves and one of our bloggists Chris Jermyn has on several occasions been the unfortunate "volunteer" of reviewing artists most of us secretly loathe. Right now, I want you to imagine a throaty cackly Vincent Price laughter with evil forebodings from The Editor when he chose me to review an album by Tom Jones. Secretly between you and me, it's a good thing he hasn't seen the list of songs that I just abhor passionately. And trust me, I really do react to that kind of music with a few allergic adversities and wishing that the radio station would be switched.

So, onto the great man himself and while I'm not very knowledgeable of one of Wales' finest exports, I'm sure that Tom Jones is worthy of all the accolades he's earned in his 50 year career as well as collaborating with many fine acts like The Art Of Noise, Robbie Williams and Stereophonics. In fact I did hear parts of his 1999 album Reload which was what I thought was a reasonable effort but probably not one to set the world alight. And Praise And Blame is another covers record although this one feels perhaps more bluegrass and gospel orientated.

It's a good bet that if asked what was his most important selling point, then we would all say his voice and as you might expect it dominates the whole of this record. Strange Days is perhaps the most defining of Praise and Blame, originally recorded by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, it's kind of gospel/blues fused and probably the most notable of the eleven tracks here. I do enjoy listening to the John Lee Hooker cover Burning Hell, where the chord structure is rather more than the usual three and the slide guitar acoustics have some interesting distortions. The Johnny Cash inspired If I Give My Soul is a stripped down track preceding the Elvis Presley type Don't Knock, likewise the Willie Johnson (from the 1920s) offering Nobody's Fault But Mine. Again, the instrumentation is very limited and gives you an idea of how it must been a challenge to cut a record back then ninety years ago.

Some honky tonk piano work accompanies the great man's voice on Didn't It Rain before the preacher written Ain't No Grave with some soft backup vocals and the obligatory gospel references. Run On closes the album with some Muddy Waters overtones which secretly I do like and could envisage listening to with a glass of Jack Daniels in one hand listening to the boy from The Valleys.

The album is not a bad effort and in some cases better than Reload, however for me, it's rather stripped down excessively and there's not many other instruments running throughout the whole program. Not enough activity in the songs that hold my full attention. It's easy to identify with the tracks that hold very close to Mr. Jones' heart bearing in mind he started out in life doing rock n' roll before the successes came with Delilah and What's New Pussycat. But this is the new Millennium and terms of retro feel Praise And Blame goes, well I won't say too far for my tastes, but certainly not enough.

6 out of ten. Now I see where you were going but not quite there.

Buy Praise And Blame here on Amazon
Official website here
Listen to the album here on Deezer

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