Tom Jones

24 Hours

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To quote an earlier comeback record from Tom Jones (not that he ever left), he not only has the lead but he knows how to swing it. While it's true that 24 Hours appears close to 50 years after Jones first started playing with local Welsh beat groups, there's still plenty of evidence that this is the same singer who caused timid radio broadcasters to reconsider playing his records and women to throw uncountable pairs of knickers toward the stage. Helmed by production team Future Cut -- also behind tracks by Lily Allen, Estelle, and Kelis, among others -- the record charts a perfect balance between the type of throwback soul that would appeal to fans of the artists mentioned above (plus Amy Winehouse or Nikka Costa) as well as those who treasure his beefy late-'60s productions. After all, not many listeners want to hear a refined Tom Jones. They want the power and bravado of "It's Not Unusual" and "What's New, Pussycat?" And, fortunately, that's exactly what they get here, from the knockout first single "If He Should Ever Leave You," the opener "I'm Alive," the aggressive and flirtatious "Sugar Daddy," and "In Style and Rhythm." Often, when performers attempt to update their sound, they end up sounding hopelessly lost or bewildered, but Jones has changed with the times throughout his career. Just as importantly, he's always chosen collaborators who can pinpoint how his classic sound would work in a contemporary context. Here, it's a pounding and drum-heavy production that still allows room for organic touches (blazing horns, stinging brass, twanging guitars). The quality of the songs is high, and most are kept in-house, so they match his persona well. Besides Future Cut, Tom Jones also gets help on a pair of tracks from two other great producers: Betty Wright and Nellee Hooper. The latter appears on "Sugar Daddy," an excellent song written for Jones by Bono and the Edge, and it also features both of them playing on the track. Best of all, Jones' voice is still strong, only rarely betraying his 68 years on the planet.

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