CD Review of 24 Hours by Tom Jones
Recommended if you like
Neil Diamond, Frank Popp Ensemble, Burt Bacharach
Label
S-Curve
Tom Jones: 24 Hours

Reviewed by David Medsker

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O
n paper, his career choices in the past 15 years would appear to be disastrous, but Tom Jones has actually had one of the finest autumns of any act from his generation. His 1994 album The Lead and How to Swing It is considered a colossal bomb within the industry, but that album, which featured a duet with Tori Amos and covers of songs by Yaz and the Wolfgang Press, proved to be a happy little accident: the club kids and Anglophiles embraced Tom as one of their own. (Its leadoff track "If I Only Knew" is now a staple in his live set.) Two years later he appeared in Tim Burton’s "Mars Attacks!," another commercial disappointment but notable for its final scene, which features Jones dancing along with forest animals to "It’s Not Unusual." He may not have been storming the charts, but Tom Jones was fast becoming an alternative icon.

Then came Reload, his 1999 album of duets that hit #1 on the UK charts not once but twice, thanks to collaborations with a who’s who of late-‘90s UK pop stars (Cardigans, Stereophonics, Robbie Williams, Barenaked Ladies, scads more). Suddenly, Tom was hotter than he had been since the early ‘70s, and he took advantage of that popularity to play around a little, working with Wyclef Jean on one album and Jools Holland on another. With 24 Hours, his first album in four years, Jones comes to terms with both of his career peaks, straddling the line between his ‘60s glory days and his current-day renaissance. There are horn-drenched blasts of Bacharach-style pop ("If He Should Ever Leave You") sitting side by side with Bono/Edge-penned sleaze ("Sugar Daddy") and Jones’ own personal "Weapon of Choice" ("In Style and Rhythm"). When the album is cooking, it’s damn near impossible to resist.

Tom Jones

The problem is that the back half of 24 Hours would prefer to simmer. Ballads, ballads, and more ballads bring the party crashing to the ground. Jones is clearly going for another "Green Green Grass of Home" moment here, and that’s fine, but closing out an album with five "Green Green Grass of Home" moments in a row is just too much. By the time the title track arrives at album’s end, any warm fuzzies created from the album’s bubblier moments are gone.

Jones, of course, will survive this. He has a few new sure-fire concert staples in the exultant "I’m Alive" (the album’s best track), "If He Should Ever Leave You" and "Give a Little Love," and while the ballads slow 24 Hours to a crawl, it is not as though the ballads themselves are insufferable. One more upbeat number would have worked wonders, but the parts of 24 Hours that work are good enough to continue Jones’ autumn for a few more years.

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