Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Praise and Blame

There’s been much comment in the music press about Tom Jones’ latest offering Praise and Blame; not least from his own record label. David Sharpe, vice president of Island Records, was reported to have sent an angry email to colleagues declaring the record a ‘sick joke’ and went on to say: ‘We did not invest a fortune in an established artist for him to deliver 12 tracks from the common book of prayer (sic).’ Some have speculated that this is just an elaborate publicity stunt to attract maximum attention for the album’s release, but I suspect Island are genuinely very nervous.

I’ve now had a chance to hear Praise and Blame and I really enjoyed it. The production by Ethan Jones is ideal for showcasing the deep rich tone of Jones’ vocals and the stripped back ambience is perfect for the gospel, blues and spirituals repertoire. The album reminds me of T Bone Burnett’s work with Robert Plant and Alison Kraus on Raising Sand and includes the track Nobody’s Fault But Mine which Plant recorded with Led Zeppelin. This version is more like Plant’s reworking of the song with Jimmy Page on No Quarter and some of the guitar playing on the album is also reminiscent of Page’s slide work.

The album starts with Dylan’s What good am I which sets the tone in both pace and mood; though occasionally Jones’ rocks out a bit more on tracks like Burning Hell and Lord Help the Poor and Needy. There are confessional moments when it sounds as if Jones’ is genuinely baring his soul. Commenting on his motivation for recording the material Jones revealed: "We thought, 'Let's look for some spiritual things, uplifting things, things that mean something.'" He also reflected "So these spiritual songs, the gospel songs on this album, that's very natural to me. It's not like stepping into an area that I haven't tried yet. I know what these songs are; it's my cup of tea if you like. This is stuff that I listen to, that I've always liked." "When I heard it, I thought, 'This is me, this is my meat, this is where I come from.'" 

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