Reload: (New Edition)
It had been six years since Tom Jones released his last stateside record, but this one scored big in England and on the Continent, for good reason. Ultra-modern and topical, Reload suggests you can easily ignore Jones' "What's New Pussycat?" past. Not only does Jones deliver one of the more invigorating workings of modern pop here, his selection of material and choice of mates prove that in addition to his routinely extraordinary performances, he's still recording quite potently, thank you. Like 1994's underrated "The Lead and How To Swing It," a lesser seller from the Interscope label, "Reload" finds Tom in collaborative mode. But where The Lead stressed original tunes and producer chops (everyone from Teddy Riley to Flood to Trevor Horn weighed in), Reload focuses on contemporary artists and cover songs. The artists are a motley, and very talented, crew indeed. Jones more than holds his own, turning the tunes into unusually personal and expressive vehicles. Jones launches the disc with Talking Heads' "Burning Down the House," working it brisk and funky with the Cardigans and lending David Byrne's opaque lyrics a fresh vigor. Then, with Stereophonics, he resurrects Randy Newman's "Mama Told Me Not to Come," refreshing the Three Dog Night chestnut with unexpected lasciviousness. The selections are as peculiar as they are successful, spanning "Sometimes We Cry" (a sparsely arranged duet with Van Morrison), a sharp interpretation of Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" with Chrissie Hynde's Pretenders, and a fruity, truly bizarre take on the George Baker Selection's "Little Green Bag" with Barenaked Ladies. Jones probably doesn't do knee drops anymore, but he sure as hell does vocal swoops; check out "Ain't That a Lot of Love" with Simply Red's Mick Hucknall or his resurrection of Fine Young Cannibals' "She Drives Me Crazy" with Zucchero for throat acrobatics. Jones is in the uncomfortable position of being a retro novelty, and although he may not ignite the U.S. charts anymore (his last notable effort here was his great collaboration with the Art of Noise on the Prince tune "Kiss," in 1988), his music is as contemporary and driving as ever. ~ Carlo Wolff, Rovi
Track samples provided courtesy of iTunes
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