Mr. Jones

Tom Jones

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Mr. Jones Review

by William Ruhlmann

At age 62, Tom Jones is, in a sense, making a comeback with each new recording. That is certainly the case with Mr. Jones, on which he puts himself in the hands of producers Wyclef Jean and Jerry Duplessis. Jones has never minded being the mouthpiece of a producer or two, confident enough in his own persona to stretch to meet different styles. Here, he collaborates with his partners, co-writing many of the songs. And the trio isn't afraid to take on the Jones' legend directly, starting with the lead-off track, "Tom Jones International," which even finds the singer rapping -- well, sort of -- in a dance-friendly paean to himself. The self-referential tone continues with "Younger Days," a reminiscence about the past when Jones was a star, that ends up declaring that he's still got it. The rest of the album is a demonstration of that claim, as Jean and Duplessis provide the rhythmic instrumental tracks and Jones is his usual emphatic self. The originals are augmented by well-chosen covers, including a version of Leadbelly's "Black Betty" that features a sample of the folk-blues singer and a cover of Bob Seger's "We've Got Tonight." Finally, Jones closes as he started, by paying tribute to himself (and even sampling himself) on a remake of "I Who Have Nothing," a song he first recorded in 1970. Along with Jean and Duplessis, Jones seems to realize that the key to reinventing himself is to evoke his heyday and set it to contemporary beats.

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