Rod Liddle

Tom Jones is as nuanced a vocalist as Ian Paisley

Surrounded By Time, Jones's first original record in two decades (thank the living Christ), teeters between the mildly interesting and hugely annoying

Tom Jones is as nuanced a vocalist as Ian Paisley
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Grade: C

Revisionism has been extraordinarily kind to Tom Jones, ever since he barked his way through Prince’s ‘Kiss’ with the kind of subtlety you might expect from someone who is about to nut you in the mouth. That enormous fruity bellow is one part threat, one part music hall. He was repackaged as someone whose roots supposedly lay in R&B, but I don’t remember Sam Cooke singing ‘It’s Not Unusual’ or ‘What’s New, Pussycat?’. What Tom does, with everything, is belt it out, with bombast and bravado and the faint whiff of faggots and peas. He is as nuanced a vocalist as the late Revd Ian Paisley.

This, his first original recording in two decades (thank the living Christ), teeters between the mildly interesting, the hugely annoying and the plainly bizarre. Most songs are soaked in electronic drones and various other modern and hip sonic effects to impart gravity where, actually, no gravity resides. He manages to make the Waterboys’ ‘This is the Sea’ slightly more pompous than the original — no mean feat. He growls out the silliest song of the 1960s, Michel Legrand’s hilarious ‘Windmills of Your Mind’, accompanied by modern percussive effects that serve only to make the song sound even dafter than it was originally. Some of the tracks are spoken, such as Todd Snider’s genuinely funny ‘Talking Reality Television Blues’, which rather wonderfully brings to mind William Shatner’s contributions to popular music.

By the time he started strangling Bob Dylan, on about track nine, I removed my trousers and threw my underpants at the noise coming out of my computer. Not out of adoration, but in the hope that he might stop quite soon. He didn’t.