Greetings, Glancers! It’s only two posts in but I’m already regretting this decision. Old snake hips himself, the man with the thunder balls and golden tonsils – Tom Jones – who has been accepting thrown panties in his face for 6 decades now. Imagine your grandad up on stage, belting one out while a size twelve silk thong plops onto his cheek and drapes down his chin. It’s tough being a star, folks.
So Thomas Jones… I can’t say I’m a fan. I’ve nothing at all against the big lad (apart from that awful ‘burning down the house’ song he did) and all of his big songs – Delilah, It’s Not Unusual and the like are good for singing when you’re six bottles down and halfway to gutterville. He even did a song with the Manic Street Preachers, which isn’t half bad. This will be the first time I embark on a full album by him though and I’m not sure I can cope with his booming voice for so long. Maybe the songs will be good, who knows. Hilariously, the US cover for this album had to be replaced to remove the nuclear mushroom cloud in the background which Tom has presumably unleashed from his sphincter as he forces out a particularly high note, because in 1966 the US were scared of bombs. Pff, try living in Belfast guys – I can’t get to sleep if there isn’t a bomb going off.
Dr. Love: Well now, this gets off to an explosive start with booming horns and young Tom turned up to twelve. The lyrics are pretty saucy too. The chorus is too plain for his vocal approach. He’s spicing up the vocals in the verses with a series of growls and whispers. The backing vocals try to give the whole thing a Motown feel for the chorus, but still too plain. Ha – love-itis. A good start.
Face Of A Loser: Opens with a Dusty Springfield swing. A softer vocal approach. Slightly. Plenty more horns. More backing vocals for the chorus. It’s a better chorus this time, except I wish they would have continued down the scale when singing ‘lo-oh-oh-oh-ser’. That would have opened up the melody a little. Good verse melodies though, I could see myself singing this in the shower or to the bald train conductor whose face looks like the back of his head. Ah right, that’s a personal reference. Belts out those final notes.
It’s Been A Long Time Coming: I expected a lot of brass in this album, and boy am I getting it. I’m not a brass fan in general, hasn’t got on my nerve yet. This has a clear blues feel. I assume all of these songs had been recorded by others before Tom, but I don’t know any of them. It’s hard hearing this without thinking of Long Time Coming by The Delays. Check out that song, it’s great. This is too slow for my liking, those slow blues numbers never really work for me unless there’s some devilish guitar to slice my skin off. He lets off a great screech though, Little Richard style.
In A Woman’s Eyes: Horns, you know it. A touch of guitar. More of a rambling verse this time, with the melody held for the chorus. Great bridge though. ‘In a woman’s eyes I’m everything a man should be’. Watch that ego there, Tom, you’ll poke your eye out.
More: Hmm, reminiscent of a young Michael Jackson song. Violins to accompany the horns. Ahhh, that’s why I know this – it’s from Mondo Cane. I always thought that was a bizarre piece of music to accompany a film about force-feeding and tit-showing, and other strange human practices, but then the lovely music Riz made for Cannibal Holocause doesn’t exactly fit the story, at least on the surface.
I’ll Never Let You Go: Slow horns. A plain and simple verse melody. There hasn’t been a bad song yet, that’s good. A little samey maybe, but that’s the audience. This is middle album fare and doesn’t challenge. None of the songs are over three minutes, so they’re straight to the point and gone before I can get too pissed off. With a weaker voice the songs would feel much less significant.
The Loser: Another slow one, come on I want the up-tempo boy-os. Quite a few of these songs feel like they should be performed by women instead. I don’t mean that in any sort of condescending or sexist way – I just mean that in the climate of the mid-sixties these songs are exactly what solo female vocalists were singing so they feel strange coming from Tom. This is another rambler.
To Make A Big Man Cry: I’m going to get annoyed soon, it’s another soft and slow one. Come on, mix it up. Credit to Tom for trying to blast it out in the chorus, and the strings swell nicely to join him. That’s a pretty good chorus, the verses aren’t bad. I think I would like this a lot more if it didn’t come in a string of slower songs. Probably the best chorus on the album.
Key To My Heart: Speed! The album definitely has the swinging sixties feel, the arrangements and tone all remind me of other songs from the era. This is fun enough, some surprise guitar in the background and mostly string led rather than brass. As a flip-side to the previous song I would probably enjoy this song less if it hadn’t followed a series of slow ones.
True Loves Comes Only Once In A Lifetime: What the balls is this? An almost oriental intro. Very slow. Very brass. Weird backing vocals. An aimless verse leads to a plain chorus. That intro keeps coming back as a refrain, weird. Yeah, not great but didn’t hurt.
A Little You: This one starts out, if not quite like The Beatles, but some sort of 60s pop rock. A dinky, fun verse with plenty of backing vocals leads to an inconsequential chorus of sorts. It keeps that loose rambling style (when I say a song rambles, it usually means it doesn’t have an obvious verse/chorus structure – not a bad thing, or that the two entities are so similar that it’s difficult to distinguish between them – a bad thing) and never gets to where it wants to go.
You’re So Good For Me: Another mix of guitar horns, this feels like something Elvis would have done. The lead horn part is cool but again the chorus is more like a full stop – a recital of the song’s name followed by a hard stop. Nice long note to finish.
Where Do You Belong: I’m not sure how I feel about this one – the verse starts well but doesn’t take the melodic turns I want it to. It’s just nice, easy listening stuff that I’m not going to remember in a song’s time.
These Things You Don’t Forget: Anytime I see the words ‘these things’ together, it makes me think of Homer’s ‘this things I believe’. A slow, soft one to finish. At least until Tom unleashes a throat grenade. It’s not a great finish – verse is promising, those booming vocals in the pre-chorus are great, but the chorus is a let down.
There you go, my first Tom Jones album. It wasn’t anywhere near as horrible as I thought it was going to be – in fact, I can see now why he’s had such a long career, beyond being a generic male singer. He really does let rip in some songs and it’s abundantly clear that he is bigger than the songs he has been given. With better songs you could tell he would be a force to reckon with… but beyond the few hits of his that I’ve already mentioned I don’t know if he ever got material worthy of him. I get another chance to find out as September 1966 saw the release of his next album From The Heart. I go into that with less apprehension than I had earlier today.
Let us know in the comments what you think of A-Tom-Ic Jones!
Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Dr. Love. Face Of A Loser. To Make A Big Man Cry.