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Tom Jones

This is Tom Jones: What’s New Pussycat? DVD

Review by Josh Turner

Years ago, sitting in a submarine shop, the music of Tom Jones played overhead. It garnered some chuckles. It wasn’t the singing but rather the out-there instrumental section that accompanied this crooner’s voice. Jones’ music and his style are one-of-a-kind to say the very least. His eccentricities surely infected his associates too. In other words, every aspect of his songs, including parts from hired guns, were happy-go-lucky to the max.

For better or worse, the music on this disc is meant to be serious and you cannot blame an artist for sticking with a formula that many fans appreciated; even if plenty of people in the present times will laugh.

Artistically similar in nature to Burt Bacharach, who is most now know for his Austin Powers’ cameo, Tom Jones wasn’t going for laughs (insomuch as songs were concerned). Fans felt his music was groovy, and there’s no denying the fact that this pitchman had panache. Depending on how you feel about the artist, this could be a trip down memory lane or fodder for a drinking game. If you’re in the first camp, the production and variety are very good. At times, I found myself enamored and fascinated by Jones’ abilities as a show man regardless of the ludicrousness inherent to his shtick.

Not to mention, this is more than songs and monologues from the eccentric singer. A virtually unrecognizable George Carlin is featured in an efficient standup routine. In the course of three separate broadcasts, Jones is accompanied by Tim Conway, Lynn Redgrave, the Bee Gees, John Denver, and Mama Cass. The Ace Trucking Company, which is a squad of quondam quipsters, presents a second face that will likely cause a double-take. It’s Fred Williard and he displays great comedic timing in his early years.

What’s more, the guest troubadours provide their share of humor. It’s funny when Sam Mendes comments that Rio De Janeiro and London are exactly the same except for the language, the buildings, the people, and the food. This one-liner genuinely cracks up the live studio audience without necessitating the prerecorded ha-ha’s liberally used elsewhere. You have to remember that this prime-time television series was groundbreaking in those days.

Of all that’s mentioned, “Carolina in My Mind” with John Denver is the number that’s most staidly sung. Later in the episode, Denver also shows dexterity on the acoustic guitar. Then, an ancient version of “All Right Now” is disentombed and it’s quite different from what’s been adapted for the Pepsi commercials. During resuscitation, there is a state-of-the-art effect where the orchestra slides back and forth behind Jones. Either unknowingly or bravely, he has no concern of being bumped. As for the troupe that tops this retroactive heap, the Bee Gees perform a song prior to the introduction of their hugely popular falsetto – i.e. each pitch is unabashedly routine.

Oddly enough, the end comes soon after Jones says, “A lot more coming after station identification.” Comedy spots and Mama Cass aside, this disc is generally intriguing and funny. It does, however, date itself, and date itself it should, because this restored material comes from the turn of the decade when the sixties became the seventies. If you can get past the laugh tracks and plaid suits, this is real entertainment whether you find Jones’ disposition silly or this is simply your cup of tea.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

 
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