Tom Jones

The Definitive Tom Jones 1964-2002 [Box Set]

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The Definitive Tom Jones 1964-2002 pretty much fulfills the criteria most fans expect a multi-disc, career-spanning box set to satisfy. The four-CD, 93-track collection includes most of his chart hits -- and all of the big ones, though some minor entries get skipped over -- as well as a load of less familiar album tracks. Diehards might particularly rue the absence of the 1977 Top 20 single "Say You'll Stay Until Tomorrow," his cover of "Resurrection Shuffle" (which charted as a B-side in the U.S. in 1971), and his early single "This and That." Also, the sheer weight of material means that it's not nearly as concentrated in its power as a more concise greatest-hits collection. It becomes less and less interesting as it ventures beyond the early '70s, particularly on the last CD, taken up by a good number of clubby productions and celebrity duets from the 1990s and early 2000s. Still, Jones' remarkable voice remains at peak efficiency even on the fourth disc, something you can say of few other pop singers when they pass the half-century mark. And the collection does document his versatility in a number of genres -- rock & roll, soul, MOR pop, and country music -- as well as his willingness to tackle material from a wide assortment of major popular composers, from Paul Anka, Jimmy Webb, James Brown, and Burt Bacharach to Merle Travis, Mickey Newbury, John Barry, and his early manager, Gordon Mills. Wisely, it also heavily emphasizes his earliest and best work, tracks from his first decade as a recording artist taking up most of the first three discs. Those previously only well-versed in his hits will be pleased to find some unsung quality efforts here, like the punchy pop-soul of "Some Other Guy," the ballads "To Make a Big Man Cry" and "I Wake Up Crying," a snazzy rendition of "Begin the Beguine," the brooding funk of "Looking Out of My Window," and his cover of Solomon Burke's "Just Out of Reach (Of My Two Empty Arms)." Frankly, however, the material and production aren't always good or suited for his voice, doing much to expose the limitations of his blustery approach as well as to complement its strength. As for rarities, there aren't many, though it does include the Joe Meek-produced "Little Lonely One" (recorded before Jones signed with Decca, and belatedly released after Jones became a star) and his 1964 flop debut single, "Chills & Fever," his best pure rock & roll track. The lengthy historical essay by Peter Doggett in the bound-in booklet is good, but the track listings are more skeletal than they should be on a package of this magnitude, with no original release information beyond the years the songs were first issued.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
2:35
2 2:53
3 2:01
4 3:21
5 2:35
6 2:12
7 2:44
8 2:06
9 2:53
10 1:35
11 2:47
12 2:28
13 2:28
14 2:28
15 2:11
16 3:18
17 2:50
18 3:13
19 3:06
20 3:35
21 2:58
22 3:08
23 3:23
24 4:15
25 3:10
26 2:34
27 4:09

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:21
2 2:42
3 2:44
4 3:25
5 3:28
6 2:42
7 2:56
8 2:58
9 3:27
10 2:21
11 3:13
12 2:27
13 2:50
14 3:22
15 3:47
16 3:39
17 3:46
18 3:18
19 4:10
20 2:11
21 3:38
22 2:58
23 2:58
24 4:25
25 3:25
blue highlight denotes track pick