Saturday, November 22, 2008

The 2008 Soul of Sir Tom!

Tom Jones - The Hitter (stream only)

Your everlovin' Stepfather of Soul is working on a playlist for a new podcast, but in the meantime, the new CD by Tom Jones, 24 Hours (to be released in the US on Tuesday), has been getting some of my attention since the kind folks at Giant Step sent me a review copy.

Yes, I'm talking about that Tom Jones. The tight slacks-wearing Welshman whose place in the pantheon of cheese sometimes obscures some serious chops and, as I discussed when Luciano Pavarotti died, some serious soul, despite his not being a soul singer, per se. (And, of course, serious soul fans are aware of several Parrot sides of his that meet "soul record" standards. Some of my fellow soul bloggers have covered some of them.)

Anyway, 24 Hours is one of those "autumnal" albums like Solomon Burke's Don't Give Up on Me was: Jones still sounds good at age 68, but time has added something to his voice that makes songs like today's selection particularly poignant. Miami soul queen Betty Wright co-produced Jones' cover of Bruce Springsteen's "The Hitter," and in his hands the song's dark story takes on extra weight thanks to an arrangement that turns Springsteen's song into a Southern Soul-flavored thing with its 12/8 rhythm and strong horn charts. Although the lyrics clearly reflect a broken boxer's return home after a fall from the top, Jones' vocals, which at times sound almost as if channeling Burke, capture the world-weariness of the song perfectly. This is strong stuff! Tom Jones has got soul, y'all!

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