- The Washington Times - Monday, October 27, 2003

Tom Jones

Reloaded: Greatest Hits

Decca/UTV Records

File this one under “guilty pleasures.” Tom Jones, he of the bulky baritone and sex-machine machismo, has released not just any “greatest” compilation; this one’s targeted to a North American audience that was denied the Welsh sexagenarian’s Euro-trash pop of the past four years.

Alongside “It’s Not Unusual,” “She’s a Lady” and “What’s New Pussycat?” are techno trifles such as “Sexbomb” — a smash in the United Kingdom, apparently — and collaborations with contemporary rock bands such as the Stereophonics (“Mama Told Me (Not to Come)”) and Creole rap impresario Wyclef Jean (who produced “Tom Jones International” and “Black Betty,” a dance-hall reworking of the Leadbelly classic).

The new stuff is kitschy and sleazy and eminently disposable. Mr. Jones’ duet with the Cardigans on the Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” is simply unnecessary.

How can some of these throwaways be classified as “hits”? They’re obviously attempts at Santana-style commercial synergy, not with American pop tarts such as Michelle Branch, to be sure, but with bands with Continental appeal such as Portishead, an English act that lends its trip-hop sounds to the traditional “Motherless Child.”

Clearly, Mr. Jones in this late period of his career sees dollar signs in Europe.

Still, when you’re alone in your car (when you know no one else is listening) is there anything better than Tom Jones? The guy’s voice is no joke: expressive, full-bodied and authoritative.

Even though this collection is necessarily skewed and fragmented, soldering recent material with standards, it’s an impressive feat for Mr. Jones. Really, how many 63-year-olds could score a techno hit?

No songwriter, Mr. Jones always has been an inspired interpreter of others’ material, notwithstanding an ill-conceived cover of Prince’s “Kiss” from 1988.

A duet with Van Morrison on “Sometimes We Cry,” first released in 1999 but new to us Americans, is a beautiful thing, as are the old torch ballads “Without Love (There Is Nothing)” and “With These Hands.”

If hawking techno to the Euros is what it takes for Tom Jones to stay flush, more power to him.

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