It seems that the hippest thing Tom can now do is sound like himself.
Chris Jones 2008-11-07
What goes around comes around. For the last twenty years the boyo from Pontypridd has been working with and covering the work of young bucks like EMF, The Art Of Noise, Prince, Catatonia, The Stereophonics, Robbie Williams etc etc, in a constant quest to re-tool his 'sex bomb' image for the 21st century. While an undoubtedly iconic white soul merchant, Tom's past crimes against taste in embracing the Vegas lifestyle and treading a line between easy and full-on rock 'n' roll meant his sweaty entreatments would always have the faint air of parody: the dirty old uncle at the wedding, attempting to get on down with the kids. But now at the age of 68, Sir Thomas Jones Woodward, releases an album that utilises the zeitgeist production skills of L.A's Future Cut to make him sound like, well...how he sounded back in the mid 60s. Yes, now that Ronson, Winehouse and Duffy have put ersatz soul back on the map, it seems that the hippest thing Tom can now do is sound like himself. For this reason alone 24 Hours is a winner.
Another reason the album succeeds is that, despite a few covers, the majority of the material on offer is co-written by Jones himself. While most of it never really breaks out of the kind of lounge soul that made him a star of the Saturday night variety all those years ago, the subject matter is a surprise. Family, friends and past mistakes are all addressed here. Seasons, a convincing southern soul simmerer looks back over a career filled with many wrong turns. But the key text here is The Road, a blue-eyed schmaltzer that pays tribute and apologises to Linda, his long-suffering wife of over 50 years. "I know I caused you pain/Left you shattered on the ground". It's the heartfelt sound of an ex-philanderer paying his dues at last, and it convinces. Later on Never he again re-affirms his love for her. Bless him.
In the cover versions corner he plays it fairly safe. Tommy James' I'm Alive is the kind of material he would have belted out in the clubs in '65, whereas Springsteen's The Hitter is gritty enough to resist any messing other than turning it into an Otis-lite ballad. The only big mistake is Sugar Daddy. Written by Bono and The Edge, it portrays Tom as the worst kind of lecherous old geezer: bumping and grinding in a style most unbecoming of his age.
In the end, the Voice from the Valleys still rings true. At this age (and with a sizeable fortune to fall back on) there's no reason why Jones should even get out of bed. To turn in an album this hungry at this age speaks volumes about his desire to prove that he's still got it. And he has.