Full marks for nerve to Tom Jones for opening his second successive album of stripped-down gravitas rock with Leonard Cohen's Tower of Song, transformed from hotel-bar funk into a finger-picked country blues. Cohen's version is a mordant, blackly comic meditation, but Jones can't play lines about "born with the gift of a golden voice" for laughs and so he turns it, unexpectedly and triumphantly, into a eulogy for a life in music. It's also the highlight of this collection mixing covers of rock-aristo songwriters, a couple of well-regarded cults and a sprinkling of blues, soul and gospel. It's never as rollicking as 2010's Praise and Blame, though a version of Tom Waits' Bad As Me will sound agreeably demented to anyone who's never heard the original. Odetta's Hit or Miss answers its own question, sadly, in its transition to country-pop. Most intriguing of all is the closing version of the Low Anthem's spectral Charlie Darwin, into which a full choir is inserted, as if to compensate in big dollops for the fact that doing "spectral" has never been among Jones's noted virtues.
Michael Hann 3***