Tom Jones swings '60s again on DVD

Tom JonesMaybe it's that deep, beautiful baritone that can shake a concert venue to the core. Or the way he wears those oh-so-tight pants -- well into his 60s. Or the way he curls his lip just so when he belts out the chorus of "She's a Lady." "Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh," indeed. There is no maybe when it comes to Tom Jones because Jones, or should I say Sir Thomas Jones Woodward, knighted just last year, is a sure thing when it comes to entertainment. The Grammy-winning artist cut his chops more than 40 years ago and he's never looked back. Until now.

In the just-released DVD collection, "This Is Tom Jones," (Time Life), the singer is credited as executive producer of the three-disc set, a "highlights" retrospective of the hit television musical-variety series he hosted on ABC from 1969-1971. Disappointment alert: none of the featured episodes are presented in their entirety, and no explanation is provided.

That being said, the set is subtitled "The Rock 'N' Roll Legends," and boasts eight installments featuring some of the biggest legends in the entertainment world, some of whom were still on the cusp of superstardom. How cool is it to watch the Moody Blues perform "Ride My See-Saw," or the Who bring down the house with "Pinball Wizard" or Jones and Janis Joplin ripping into "Raise Your Hand." The set also features highlights of some of the best comedic talents in the business, including Peter Sellers as a used-car salesman and Richard Pryor pontificating on the meaning of religion.

And then there are all those far-out fashions, from bell-bottoms to hot pants to tie-dyed attire of all types to ruffled shirts that would put the Partridge Family to shame.

"This Is Tom Jones" wasn't groundbreaking television on par with some of its critically acclaimed contemporaries, but it was hugely entertaining and some of the musical performances would ultimately become once-in-a-lifetime events. Here's hoping Time Life (or another distributor) down the road sees fit to release the series in its entirety. Now would that be so unusual?

Miriam Di Nunzio Chicago Sun Times June 29, 2007