Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Tom Jones - Tom

Tom Jones

Released 1970 on Parrot
Reviewed by Dog 3000, 16/01/2003ce

So why review a Tom Jones record on a web site devoted to psychaydelick musick? Because the album "Tom", much like the similarly named Who album from the previous year, is an example of that hoariest of 60's cliches -- THE CONCEPT ALBUM.

Obviously a lot of thought was put into the selection and sequence of the tracks on this album. The six tracks on side one comprise the "SEX side" -- they are all the kind of uptempo rock-and-r&B songs that make middle aged housewives throw their panties, hotel keys and phone numbers at the stage. Whereas the five tracks on side two comprise the "LOVE side" with moaning ballads of utmost sensitivity (if not sincerity.) Concept aside, this is also the Tom Jones Experience at it's pinnacle -- his best selection of songs, best band, best arrangements, best singing. If you only have one Tom Jones album in your collection, this is the ONE to have. His musical collaborators here include arranger/conductor Johnnie Spence who provides the rippin' horn charts you hear on this and other great albums from the High Tom Era. Also notable is Jimmy Sullivan, the hottest guitar player any Las Vegas band has ever seen (dig his hot WAH WAH JAM on the "Live In Las Vegas" album!)

"TOM" begins with a Tom-o-matic version of an Otis Redding staple, "I Can't Turn You Loose." Tom declares: hip-shakin' mama I want ya! And somewhat like Sgt. Pepper, he kicks off this "show" with many exhortations to his musical accomplices "C'mon hit me band! AHHHHOOWWW!", demonstrating to the listener that this is a musical fantasia by blurring the lines between form & function, media & message.

Next up are two tunes about sexy rock-n-roll molls, the kind of women who need a little TOM in their lives -- surrogates for the listener if you will: "Polk Salad Annie" and that ole chestnut "Proud Mary." On "Annie" Mr. Jones shows his range by grunting down low a bit like Captain Beefheart ("he claimed to have a bad back") and squeals high like -- I don't know what ("you know, the gators got your granny! Chomp, chomp, chomp!") For "Mary" his obvious inspiration is the Tina Turner / USO Tour version, warp speed with blazing horn riffs. OK, so originally "Proud Mary" was supposed to be a boat, but in this version she's obviously a real woman in need of LUUUUHRVIN.

Things get even hotter on the next two tracks: "Sugar Sugar" is the Archies classic, but when sung by a real live MAN and not a bunch of cartoon dweebs the sexual entendres come to the forefront. "UH! UH! UH! SHOOGAH!!!" He wants you to pour it all over him, womanrightNOW! After a lil' SWEET lovin things get HOT, as TOM rips into Shocking Blue's "Venus." OK so there is some gender confusion going on here -- he starts off praising the "goddess on the mountain top, burning like a silver flame" but by the end of the song "I'M your Venus, I'M your fire, I'm YOUR desire!" Tom is both the lover and the beloved? Well sure, he's the subject of this narrative (the lover) as well as the object of the listener's desire (see how pretty he looks on the cover, all airbrushed with shiny hair and shiny gold jewelry to attract your gaze.) The bottom line is this is an album about TOM the love god, and he has so much mojo there ain't room for no one else.

After the hot climax of "Venus" comes the denouement to side A, the Hayes-Porter classic "I Thank You" -- as with most of side one, faster than the original with a Vegas horn section blowing its ass off. If the last two songs were the "wham bam" then this is the "thank you ma'am." Always the gentleman our Tom is. Now wipe the sweat from your brow, change your knickers, pour a glass of chardonay and prepare yourself for side two.

The LOVE side begins with the album's hit single and the only "original" on the album (though of course Tom didn't write it): "Without Love (There Is Nothing)". A plainer thesis there couldn't be: "without love, I have nothing, nothing at all." See it's not just about sex, he's got a sensitive side too!

Second song on side two is the real jaw-dropper: "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" the Mann-Weil-Spector tune made famous by the Everly Brothers. And believe me when I tell you that NO ONE has ever done a better version of this song than Mr. Tom Freakin' Jones. He begins by positively MOANING the lyrics -- "you never clOOOOHHHse your eyes, anymore, when I kiss your li-hi-hi-hi-hi-i-ips . . . " It's like you can hear how blue his balls are. And when he hits the massive, soaring, tonsil-quivering high note at the end -- "with . . . out . . YOOOOOOOOUUUUU-OOOOO-HOOOOO-AAAOOOOOO!!!!" -- man, it takes my breath away every time. I've played this track for non-Tomheads and it never fails to impress.

From the depths of lost love comes the heights that love can take a man to: "If I Ruled The World" and "The Impossible Dream" show that LOVE is not just an end in itself, but a means to an end. Tom is on a quest, trying to reach the unreachable star. "Dream" has another of those patented lung-bursting high notes at the end, but it doesn't have quite the oomph of "Lovin' Feelin'", I think because Mr. Jones can't quite get into the more abstract longing in these lyrics as with the former tune. You got to go with what you know, and if there is one thing our Tom knows it is "that lovin feelin".

Anyhoo, the whole affair comes to a close with a Brothers Gibb tune, "Let There Be Love." Having achieved the impossible dream and ruled the world, our love god has now literally BECOME GOD, pronouncing that LOVE IS AND ALWAYS SHALL BE in old testament terms. Except Yahweh didn't have no koozadelic vibrato!

OK so I admit I've listened to side one of "TOM" about six times for every time I've listened to side two, but then I'm a hetero male and I admit that I might get a little nervous when the manliest of men is trying to seduce me with songs of love. I mean, we all know the stereotypical Tom Jones fan is the type of woman who reads bodice-ripper romance novels etc. But side one is something anyone can dig -- you can dance, sing along, bob ya head, even make love to it. Fact is if you can feel the power when Bob Plant squeals about "every incha my luhrv" then you can damn well feel Tom Jones. Tom's LUHHHHHRRRRVVV is more, er, "subtle" and multi-dimensional than your typical cock-rocker, his band is smokin' and there's no drum solos (or even guitar solos) or any of that boring stuff to muck it up. He just hits that thang and moves on, WHAM BAM! Plus "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'", whew! If you've never heard his version before it will be like hearing the song fresh for the first time.

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