24 Hours' marks new day for Tom Jones

Tom JonesTom Jones has released the new album "24 Hours" after a 15-year hiatus.There's a cliché sound for oldster comeback records these days, courtesy of star producer Rick Rubin. When the producer began his high-profile mission to clear away the cobwebs from some of his favorite older stars — including Johnny Cash, Donovan and Neil Diamond — he didn't so much revive their music as distill it. Rubin's recordings for those icons were equal parts collaborations and comebacks, all honoring his own mandate to keep everything stripped, raw and pure. Producer Jack White used a less severe version of this same strategy on his comeback CD with Loretta Lynn, as did Joe Henry on his hard, bluesy revival album for Bettye LaVette. Tom Jones' first CD of new material in 15 years, "24 Hours," stands in direct opposition to all those works. As maximal as Rubin's CDs are minimal, Jones' album doesn’t aim to refigure an iconic star's signature sound but rather to re-scale its most daring peaks.

The hit Brit duo Future Cut oversaw the project, and while they're best-known for working with bratty artists like Kate Nash and Lily Allen, the flagrantly retro sound they concocted here comes closer to what Mark Ronson did with Amy Winehouse. "24 Hours" boasts the same brash and busy style that first made Tom Jones a household name back in 1965. It's a blowsy, horny, ecstatic blowout, boring deep into Jones’ seemingly contradictory, signature style: lounge-soul.

Romantics and sticklers tend to cast soul as the enemy of lounge's artifice. But soul stars had their own theatricality, and British singers like Jones (as well as Lulu and Petula Clark) showed how the gripping drama and high melodies of lounge could offer an exciting shading to soul's grit. The songs on "24 Hours" have the sort of broad, quasi-campy melodies that fired Jones' career in hits like "It’s Not Unusual" and "Delilah."

New cuts like "If He Should Ever Leave You" or "Give a Little Love" sound like they were penned in the ’60s (a supreme compliment), though they actually represent the first works written by the 68-year-old Jones (along with a host of able conspirators, you should know).

Jones' star power even earned him a new composition from Bono and The Edge: "Sugar Daddy," which winkingly plays with Jones' randy character.

The CD's first two-thirds keep the pace wild and the style mid-century mod. The last third goes for "deeper" ballads, including a cover of Springsteen's "The Hitter." Though these wistful and battered songs aim to play off Jones' age, they don’t have the credibility, or power, of his breezier pieces. Only the lighter ones make ideal use of his barrel-chested power, his operatic reach. Sincerity and intimacy may count for a lot with many elder stars.

But for Jones, it's the youth of the music — the density and vigor — that really makes it sing.

By Jim Farber NY Daily News