London Evening Standard: CD of the Week 4* Review

I must confess at the outset that Tom Jones has always been a figure of fun in my life. This dates back to the Sixties when my mother and I watched the then unknown Tom gyrate his way through It's Not Unusual on Top of the Pops. My mother starting laughing first and then I joined in, quite unable to resist. It was as if someone had liberally sprinkled itching powder inside his tight strides. PJ Proby may have split his trousers but Tom Jones always looked as if his might disintegrate or spontaneously combust.Perhaps that was how the knicker-throwing started. I'm not laughing any more because Tom has made an album that befits his age (70) and suits his voice. Praise & Blame is a collection of cover versions, featuring lesser-known songs from way back when (plus Bob Dylan's more recent What Good Am I) and taking in spirituals, the blues and good old rock 'n' roll. Producer Ethan Johns brings a stripped-down sound to the party and Tom sings the songs with warmth and not a trace of bombast, notably on ballads such as Did Trouble Me and If I Give My Soul. That the itching powder has not entirely been expunged from his slacks is proved by the guitar-propelled Lord Help and the splendid reworking of John Lee Hooker's Burning Hell.Apparently, someone at Jones's record label has made rude noises about this album. He needs a hearing aid. Pete Clark