In a recording career dating back 40 years, the LP Tom Jones & Jools Holland may be the best album Tom Jones has ever made. From the beginning, the singer has displayed his versatility, ably handling everything from the loopy ‘60s pop of "What's New, Pussycat?" to a ‘70s and ‘80s stint as a country singer before becoming the willing mouthpiece of dance-rock mavens like Art of Noise in the ‘90s and beyond. That adaptability has seen him through ups and downs, from concert halls to lounges in Las Vegas and back. But Jools Holland, the rambunctious barrelhouse/boogie-woogie piano player who has found renown as a TV host in Great Britain (Later with Jools Holland) seems to have located Jones' true center as a performer by accompanying him on this collection of old jump blues, R&B, rockabilly, and blues (with a few originals thrown in). Jones' voice is given a strong echo, the better to enable his version of the sound of Big Joe Williams and Big Joe Turner, among others. His talent has always been sounding comfortable no matter what he was singing, but Jones really sounds like he's having fun here, making like Jerry Lee Lewis on "It'll Be Me" and "End of the Road," for instance, or like Larry Williams on "Slow Down." He is the most joyous of bluesmen addressing "Good Morning Blues" (to which Holland appends Count Basie's "One O'Clock Jump" ) and "St. James Infirmary," and he and Holland revive Huey "Piano" Smith on "Roberta." In his reincarnations of the ‘90s and ‘00s, Jones has been trying to sound as current as possible. Holland's insight was to see that the 64-year-old singer was ready to investigate the roots of his soulful voice, and the pianist earns his co-billing by leading some rocking ensembles through arrangements that support the singer in his triumphant reclamation of his earliest influences.
Tom Jones & Jools Holland Review
by William Ruhlmann