A Review by Paul Fayers

Tom Jones : Reload

- Original Article - September 15, 1999
So there you have it, something for everyone on this incredibly strong album!

Tom Jones' new album "Reload"
Released on Sept. 27,1999

Track Listing

1. Burning Down The House
with The Cardigans
(Originally recorded by Talking Heads)

2. Mama Told Me Not To Come
Kelly Jones of Stereophonics
(Three Dog Night)

3. Are You Gonna Go My Way
Robbie Williams
(Lenny Kravitz)

4. All Mine
The Divine Comedy

5. Sunny Afternoon
(The Kinks)

6. I'm Left, You're Right She's Gone
James Dean Bradfield
of Manic Street Preachers
(Elvis Presley)

7. Sexbomb
Mousse T
(Mousse T)

8. You Need Love Like I Do
Heather Small of M People
(Gladys Knight And The Pips)

9. Looking Out My Window
The James Taylor Quartet
(Tom Jones)

10. Sometimes We Cry
Van Morrison
(Van Morrison)

11. Lust For Life
Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders
(Iggy Pop)

12. Little Green Bag
Barenaked Ladies
(The George Baker Selection)

13. Ain't That A Lot Of Love
Simply Red
(Sam & Dave)

14. She Drives Me Crazy
(Fine Young Cannibals)

15. Never Tear Us Apart
Natalie Imbruglia

16. Baby It's Cold Outside
Cerys Matthews of Catatonia
(Ray Charles and Betty Carter)

17. Motherless Child
(Peggy Lee)

Well here it is after five years of waiting, and the Interscope debacle, we finally have some new Tom Jones material! There has been a lot of talk about the cover versions and collaborators but now it is time for the talk to stop, the album is here and in my grubby mitts!

So what is it like? Well as you will probably expect from the diverse list of collaborators it is a bit of a mixed bag and has an odd not quite coherent feel to it, the only constant being Tom's domineering vocal. In fact it has the feel of a 'hits' album, well it certainly sounds as if it has a few 'hits' on it to me.

In my opinion the tracks on the album can be quite clearly split into three categories The good, the bad and the absolutely fantastic! We will get the bad out of the way first. To be honest there are no plain embarrassing tracks on the album but there are a few tracks which suffer in comparison to the well known original versions. Tracks that spring to mind here are the rather uninspired arrangements of Elvis Presley's 'I'm Left, You're Right She's Gone', Iggy Pop's 'Lust For Life' and The Kinks' 'Sunny Afternoon'. The latter being particularly poor with Space's knowingly quirky take of the Kinks classic falling a bit flat and lead singer Tommy's voice being beaten into submission by Tom's. Another track that sounds particularly out of place is the Van Morrison collaboration 'Sometimes We Cry', again I would not completely dismiss it, but it does sound like a left over from the 'Carrying A Torch' project rather than a track cut for the new 'young' dynamic Tom Jones project.

Which brings us nicely onto the young, dynamic & good. This category accounts for about forty percent of the album and like the previous category mainly consists of fairly run of the mill arrangements of well known songs but here the songs and vocal collaborations really suit Tom and the real difference is that Tom really sounds like he is enjoying himself. You can hear the joy in Tom's voice as he and Kelly from the Stereophonics roar through the classic Randy Newman song 'Mama Told Me Not To Come'. You can tell Tom is having fun with 'Are You Gonna Go My Way' from the friendly banter with Robbie Williams during the intro and you can almost touch the heartbreak in Tom's voice during 'Never Tear Us Apart'. 'Little Green Bag' lifts you up as soon as the guitar kicks in and you know Tom is loving every minute as rips up the soulful classics 'You Need Love Like I Do' and 'Ain't That A Lot Of Love' with Heather Small and Simply Red.

This leaves us with the album highlights, the absolutely fantastic! Tom doesn't leave it long before getting to these, in fact the first track and first single 'Burning Down The House' falls into this category. Tom and the Cardigans have taken the leftfield Talking Heads classic and fashioned it into a funky pop gem designed to take the world by storm and early indications point towards world Tomination being just around the corner. The next absolute classic is 'All Mine'. The Divine Comedy have played on Portishead's John Barry leanings with their clever production and produced a timeless classic that sits well along side Tom's finest moments such as 'Thunderball'. Then comes Zucchero's reworking of 'She Drives Me Crazy', this is another international smash waiting to happen and is closest in feel to Tom's eighties hit 'Kiss' on the album. Then comes what must be the Christmas single 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' with Cerys from Catatonia. The arrangement here is fairly close to the original but it works so well here because it is something we haven't heard Tom do for a long time and because there is such an obvious chemistry between the two singers.

It is also no co-incidence that the last three tunes to fall into the absolutely fantastic category are the three tunes where Tom takes on Solo vocal duties. First up is 'Sexbomb', the subject is classic Tom material and because there is no other vocalist we get treated to lots of grunts and adlibs, again the sound of Tom having fun and the interesting modern production on this song is a real treat. Next up is the self-penned 'Looking Out My Window'. This is always been a favourite of mine and although this doesn't quite reach the power of the sixties original, the JTQ provide an interesting twist to this absolute classic with their funky reworking.

The closing song on the album, 'Motherless Child', is a real heart tugger. Portishead provide a very modern, atmospheric and somewhat dark backing to this old standard whilst Tom really pours his heart into the sad sad lyric, as the track and album draw to close, even the hardest of heart can be seen wiping a tear from their eye. So there you have it, something for everyone on this incredibly strong album. We have taken the good, the bad and the absolutely fantastic, and as the Welsh man with one name disappears over the horizon with his posse, there is only one thing to do. Press play and relive the experience again. And again. And again.

- Paul Fayers, Norwich, England -

©Paul Fayers, 1999, Uploaded on September 17, 1999 by Mari