It's not unusual. . . Jones aims for Number One with 'sick joke' album
Published 31/07/2010 | 05:00
MY, my, my. Tom the Voice, at the age of 70, is set to return to No 1 in the British album charts with a record which was described as "some sick joke" by one of the executives on his own label.
When Jones first heard of the scathing email in which David Sharpe, vice-president at Island Records, demanded of colleagues that they "pull back this project immediately or get my money back", he was said to be bristling with indignation.
"I've never met the fellow," he said dismissively. Now, as he prepares to stand astride the hit parade once more, hips swinging and trousers tight, the Welsh warbler might consider toasting Mr Sharpe with one of his favourite vodka martinis.
Maybe it was all one big publicity stunt. Leaked to the press, the email ridiculed the gospel-influenced tone of 'Praise & Blame', which Jones has described as his "Johnny Cash album", exploring themes of faith and redemption.
"What are you thinking when he went all spiritual?" snapped Mr Sharpe. Intrigued, thousands went to listen to, and indeed buy, a record that is vying with Eminem for top spot in tomorrow's chart. Perhaps in years to come, schools of public relations will be citing the 'sick joke' routine as a prime example of a successful campaign, up there with the frenzy of support generated for the radio station BBC 6 Music by an apparent threat to close it down.
It's unlikely. The probable truth is that Mr Sharpe just didn't get Tom Jones. He didn't realise the authentic appeal of a singer who learned his chops in a Presbyterian chapel in Pontypridd singing songs such as 'Lord, Help the Poor and Needy' by blues artist Jessie Mae Hemphill.
Nor that someone who would stay up late in his Las Vegas hotel suite with his friend Elvis Presley singing evangelist gospel songs such as 'The Old Rugged Cross' might have an innate feel for John Lee Hooker's 'Burning Hell'. But the public saw the light, sure enough. Especially when Jones went on the penultimate edition of BBC1's 'Friday Night with Jonathan Ross' and performed that Hooker number with all the presence of an artist who was once a fixture at Caesars Palace and had his own networked show on ABC, performing duets with the likes of Little Richard and Ray Charles.
Jones found more believers at the arty Latitude Festival in Suffolk earlier this month where he caused crowd chaos by turning up at one of the smaller stages and performing 'Praise & Blame' in its entirety. This would be Jones's first number one album for 11 years, since 'Reload', a collection of cover duets mostly with young artists such as the Cardigans and Natalie Imbruglia.
In that sense, 'Praise & Blame' is a comeback, though a very different one from his resurgence at the end of the 1980s when his son Mark became his manager and helped him to emerge from a period in which he had gone more than a decade without a British hit.
In 1988 he captured a new generation of admirers by recording Prince's 'Kiss'. Soon afterwards he was performing for a younger audience at the Glastonbury Festival and signing in 1993 to Interscope Records, the same label as Snoop Dogg.
It seems that Mr Sharpe was hoping for something with a contemporary feel after Island poached Jones from EMI in October last year for £1.5m (€1.8m). "Having lured him from EMI, the deal was that you would deliver a record of upbeat tracks along the lines of 'Sex Bomb' and 'Mama Told Me (Not to Come)'," But there has been great diversity in Jones's 47-year career. He has had hit records in almost every genre, and even enjoyed a successful career as a country singer in America. (© Independent News Service)