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Tom gets back to basics and bares his soul... but just for 24 Hours; New album features Sex Bomb singer in more reflective mood.

Byline: Nathan Bevan

THE Sex Bomb is back, but this time It IS Unusual.

We at the Echo have had an exclusive sneak preview of Tom Jones' new album, his first of new material in 15 years, and it seems the Voice From The Valleys' shirt is staying firmly fastened.

In fact, the only thing he'll be baring is his soul.

"It's all very well just singing songs," said Tom of the upcoming 24 Hours (out November 17). "But for this record I really wanted to get properly personal."

And it seems the 68-year-old legend from Ponty pridd has followed the recent lead of legendary crooner Neil Diamond in paring things down and getting back to basics with his music.

"I've been getting reflective recently, looking over my journey through life, and I wanted to get that down on song," added Tom.

"This time I wanted to make something that was all about me, my stories, my life.

"In other words, you listen to this album and you get the real me.

"I'm just opening up shop again and seeing who comes in through the door."

It's the first Jones has had a major hand in the songwriting of an album in his entire three-decade career which has seen him sell more than 100 million records worldwide, and the difference shows.

The title track sounds unlike anything we've heard from the singer, its slow military drumbeat, mournful cello and swelling strings sounding more like a Gene Pitney-style torch song crossed with Ultravox's Vienna.

In the video that accompanies it, Jones couldn't be further from the hip-shaking heartthrob image that's stayed with him since his Swinging Sixties heyday.

Dressed all in black and standing motionless, his face lit by a solitary spotlight and lined with regret, he inhabits the skin of a dying man looking yearningly back over his life and wishing he'd done things differently.

What's New Pussycat it ain't.

But Gennaro Castaldo, HMV's head of press and PR for the UK and Ireland, doesn't think Tom's gamble will stop 24 Hours from being a Christmas cracker.

"Tom Jones albums always sell well in our stores, particularly, of course, in Wales," he said.

"We have high expectations of this new album, and I'm sure his dedicated fans will be excited to hear it too."

HIGHLIGHTS FROM 24 HOURS

24 Hours More The Boy from Nowhere than Sex Bomb. After the vein-popping bluesy bluster of his more recent work, Tom sounds like he's finally punching his weight here. The vocals are more restrained and measured, but you do wish he'd cut loose with a big bombastic chorus.

***(out of five)

I'm Alive A speeded-up, dusted down cover of the Tommy James and the Shondells classic. It's the sort of familiar brassy, shirt button-bursting pop that the fans will love, complete with a great "na na" refrain. But could have done with sounding a bit rougher round the edges.

****

We Got Love This could easily be a forgotten entry from the Burt Bacharach back catalogue.

Smooth lounge pop that, if you didn't know any better, sounds like it could have sounded equally at home on '70s AM radio.

**

Never Has all the hallmarks of classic '60s Motown, with its cascading strings, chiming bells and gospel backing. Funny how the very same stuff that inspired Duffy's own recent brand of retro-revivalism is now inspiring the old master again too.

****

Give A Little Love Probably the closest Tom gets to drifting towards the pop pastiches that spoilt his late '80s work.

A fun bit of pop fluff, but no more

*
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 22, 2008
Words:596
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