Review: Tom Jones, ‘Praise and Blame’

Review: Tom Jones, ‘Praise and Blame’: Aidin Vaziri | Is it too late for Tom Jones to find redemption? For decades, he has served as the tight-pants-wearing lothario. Now 70, Jones is looking to follow Johnny Cash’s lead into last-minute relevance. He has hired a credibility-boosting producer, Ethan Johns, let his hair go white and recorded an album of stripped-down spiritual tunes pondering death and salvation. The vice president of his British label was so outraged when he first heard “Praise and Glory” he fired off an angry e-mail to the record-company staff: “I have just listened to the album in its entirety and want to know if this is some sick joke.” It turns out it’s not. This Tom Jones record is not the one you expect: His voice is rich and restrained, with a hint of sorrow where there used to be smarminess. The music is entirely fat-free – no strings or processed dance beats. The closest comparison might be Sun-era Elvis. Listening to the stately opener, “What Good Am I?,” you can’t help but wonder if this isn’t the kind of record Jones should have been making all along, while soulful tracks such as “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” and “Lord Help” only bolster the case. He might never shake the perma-tanned image, but at least now he has got one good album to go with it.

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