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Tom Jones International » Tom’s Musical History

Tom Jones International

Tom Jones Fansite

Tom’s Musical History

Looking for that rare Tom Jones CD or vinyl? You might want to start with eBay’s Tom Jones pages.

Experience has taught us that amazon.com offers a good selection of easily-obtainable CDs. And be sure to check their “used & new” listings. We’ve never been disappointed with items ordered from these resellers when we’ve carefully read their item descriptions and their buyers’ ratings.

If you still cannot find what you’re looking for, be sure to check out what eil.com has for the Tom Jones collector. It’s an interesting, eclectic selection where, if it’s not there today, it likely will be tomorrow. (In fact, if you want, they’ll notify you when it is.) And, a great feature of this site is that prices are given in $, £ and €.


Please note, this is not intended to be a discography but, rather, narrative history. For a listing of recordings, dates and labels until 2005, go to BJ Spencer’s discography. This fan has done an outstanding job of cataloging Tom’s releases. For an up-to-date list (without all the supporting data) go to Carlos’ fansite.
Tom performing in AustraliaIf you’ve seen Tom Jones in person, then you’ve heard him recite their names — “Little Richard, Fats Domino, Chuck Berrrrrrrry and Jerry Leeee Lewis!” If you’ve read an interview on the topic, you’ve heard Tom say how much the music he heard as a young child and teenager influenced his professional choices, in particular the American pop, rock n’ roll and blues.

He talks about Al Jolson, who recorded between 1912 and 1949 with his signature extroverted, no-holds-barred style.

From the early 1950s Tom was influenced by Frankie Laine — himself influenced by Jolson — who set a UK chart record in 1953 when his version of I Believe stayed on top of the charts for 18 weeks and was followed for nine weeks that same year by Hey, Joe, giving him a total of 27 weeks at number one. Laine’s voice was strong and he made a career of singing themes to western movies (High Noon) and covering country songs for the pop market.

Then rock n’ roll and the recordings by black artists on Motown reached Tom’s corner of the world. And the music clearly struck a such a deep chord with Tom Jones that, still today, all these years later, he still sings this music seemingly whenever he gets the opportunity. It is as if, in these basic rhythms so clearly the direct descendants of the blues he also sings so often today, Tom Jones had found his musical soul.

alongcamejonesSo Along Came Jones, the first album he recorded on Decca (LK 4693), released on May 21, 1965 had an interesting mix of songs by people including Phil Spector (Spanish Harlem) and, of course, his most reliable hit writers, Gordon Mills and Les Reed (It’s Not Unusual, Some Other Guy). This album was released in the US on the Parrot label as It’s Not Unusual (PAS 71004) with I’ve Got A Heart and The Rose deleted.

atThe following January, A-TOM-IC JONES (Decca Mono LK 4743) was released in both the UK and US. It’s mushroom cloud cover (left) caused quite a stir, but the album did not make the charts.

Not a songwriter himself, Tom from the beginning always chose material he could adapt to his unique sound, often making the song his own. And there was never, even from the earliest recordings, just one type of song. He sang rock, standards, R&B, country, folk music….and, of course, the blues. But the flat-out blues came later. First, he compiled a vocal songbook of the sounds he’d loved as a young man. Thus, Green Green Grass of Home came from Clyde McPhatter, founder of the Drifters who had a highly successful solo career. If he liked it, Tom Jones sang it. But whatever the kind of song, he had an ability — almost uncanny in a Welshman from the Valleys — to sound like the best of the black R&B singers.

Ruth Brown, an Atlantic star in the 1950s, told Tom the story of the first time she heard him sing. “I was sitting with Sam Cooke. We listened to you sing and you didn’t sound like any white man we had ever heard. I said to Sam, ‘That boy’s lying. He’s black.’”

Some might say Tom’s career took an erroneous detour into country in the late 70s, but he’d always sung country music (Green Green Grass, for example) and, as he’d done before, during this period he mixed original material (Darlin’ and the #1 country charted Say You’ll Stay Until Tomorrow) that sold well on the country charts, with music written for others that he adopted. In fact, it was during this time that Tom first recorded Jerry Lee Lewis’ It’ll Be Me, a song redone in the Jools Holland collaboration in 2004. From the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, Tom recorded a great deal of country material on Mercury Polygram.

rescue meA somewhat regrettable side trip into disco on MCA called Rescue Me — mostly available today on eBay — was notable only for having absolutely the best art of any of his albums. (It’s at right. Don’t you agree?) It was only released in the U.S. so fans elsewhere didn’t have the opportunity to hear the disco version of Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.

With a recording contract seemingly on hold, Tom continued to tour. After the sudden death of his manager Gordon Mills in 1986 Tom’s son Mark Woodward took over management and sent Tom’s career into a new direction.

In 1987, Tom sang the role of El Cordobés in Matador, a studio recording of a musical that was said to be headed for London’s West End. While that run never materialized, Tom had a huge hit in Europe with A Boy From Nowhere, a full-on ballad with a big orchestration that laid out the determination of the young El Cordobés to succeed. Many listeners took it as Tom’s own biographical anthem.

The next year he recorded Kiss with the Art of Noise and found a new audience in dance clubs. Along about that time It’s Not Unusual was re-released and his young audience grew further.

A collaboration with Van Morrison on a 1991 album called Carrying A Torch featured some good music but didn’t sell and wasn’t released in the US.

Tom continued touring and recorded an R & B album for Interscope but it, too, was never released, allegedly because the company believed it wasn’t commercial.

all you need is loveContributing his talents to ChildLine, a UK charity sponsoring a telephone helpline for abused children, Tom recorded All You Need Is Love, a number released as a fundraiser in 1993. The special Tom Jones arrangement of the number was produced by Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics and featured backup vocals by Kiki Dee.

To raise money for the homeless that same year, Tom was paired with New Model Army for a version of the Stones’ Gimme Shelter, one of several versions made for the project. Theirs rose to number 23 on the British charts.

the leadThe Lead and How To Swing It was released on Interscope in 1994 and featured Tom’s work with producers Trevor Horn (who had worked successfully with Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Seal), Flood (U2, Nine Inch Nails) and Teddy Riley (Bobby Brown, Michael Jackson). The most successful song from The Lead was If I Only Knew that also had a video — a video inexplicably featuring dogs on the make. The CD cover was a glorious example of manscaping and Tom looked, um, swinging. But it’s a terrific, great CD that he dedicated to his grandchildren. The 1995 “Australian Tour Edition” had an additional CD. Titled Three Decades of Cool, it featured six tracks recorded live in London. These include Walking in Memphis.

For the soundtrack of what looked to be just a modest 1997 film called The Full Monty, Tom contributed the big finale song, You Can Leave Your Hat On. The film was a smash and Tom’s song became a solo hit.

Proof that even to the next generation Tom Jones was again cool came in 1998 with the release of a tune by the Liverpool band Space. Featuring Cerys Matthews the The Ballad of Tom Jones became a top five UK hit. The was written by Space frontman Tommy Scott. In a peculiar kind of “full circle” coincidence, “Tommy Scott and the Senators” was the first name the singer who became Tom Jones used professionally.

Finally, in September 1999 came the recording that truly, deeply and totally revitalized Tom’s career — Reload. An album of duets on Gut Records, it teamed Tom with people ranging from Van Morrison to Robbie Williams to Space to Cerys Matthews. Sexbomb was probably the biggest hit on Reload. This collection also showed Tom’s affinity for the work of Randy Newman who composed You Can Leave Your Hat On. On Reload Tom teamed with the Stereophonics for a new version of Mama Told Me Not to Come, which also turned out to be a hit single for him.

Reload debuted in the UK at #1 and was never released in the US. Instead, stateside fans were given a watered-down, kind of greatest hit version called Reloaded at the end of 2003.

Meanwhile, in the spring of 2002, Wyclef Jean recorded Mr. Jones.

The CD was released in November 2002 only in Europe, though it was recorded in New York. A lightening rod for controversy even among even the staunchest Tom Jones fans, the CD featured Tom Jones International and Younger Days, two numbers that might be interpreted (like A Boy From Nowhere) as being autobiographical. The CD also had lyrics in which Mr. Jones talked about his “crib” and offered a reworking of I (Who Have Nothing), along with his version of Black Betty with some Leadbelly thrown in as background vocal. Fans seem to love to debate the CD’s overall quality.

Tom’s eponymously titled collaboration with Solomon Burke. You can hear much of this music in his stage show but the Jools Holland collaboration is just a marvel, including as it does a host of his interpretations of some vintage classics (Glory of Love for one), along with some originals. (Baptism By Fire is just amazing). The single released before the album featured It’ll Be Me, Life’s Too Short and Please Send Me Someone to Love. The last song was not included on the full-length CD.

w-farnham





Following his February 2005 tour of Australia with John Farnham (left), a DVD featuring the two were released in Australia in May. (Note: The DVD is available only in NTSC format.) Nothing much new for fans of either performer, although they did collaborate on numbers each had made popular. Both the DVD and CD hit number one on the Australian charts.

stoned in love cover

Tom again moved into new territory with his vocal on Stoned In Love, an electronic dance number released in April 2006. Lots of fans didn’t like it, but in interviews Tom explained that he believes the song would stand on its own as a ballad and, as he likes to try new things, this release fit the bill perfectly.

In June 2007, Tom’s 1997 collaboration with Van Morrison on Morrison’s song Cry For Home was released as a single from Morrison’s CD The Best of Van Morrison Volume 3.

If you want to look more deeply into Tom Jones’ music, the terrific 2000 release Don’t Fight It (Connoisseur #300) might be worth it. This CD is a very interesting collection of the originals of songs Tom has covered over the years:
I Need Your Loving (Don Gardner and Dee Dee Ford); Endlessly (Brook Benton): Green Green Grass Of Home (Jerry Lee Lewis); Detroit City (Bobby Bare); Any Day Now (Chuck Jackson); Funny Familiar Forgotten Feelings (Mickey Newbury); I’ll Never Fall In Love Again (Lonnie Donegan); Don’t Fight It (Wilson Pickett); Without Love (Clyde McPhatter); I Can’t Break The News To Myself (Ben E King); Puppet Man (Fifth Dimension); My Elusive Dreams (David Houston and Tammy Wynette); ‘Til I Can’t Take It Anymore (Ben E King); Ain’t No Sunshine (Bill Withers); Tupelo Mississippi Flash (Jerry Reed); A Lot Of Love (Homer Banks); You Need Love Like I Do (Don’t You) (Gladys Knight & The Pips); and Little Green Bag (George Baker Selection).

Don’t Fight It gives the Tom Jones fan the opportunity to learn how Tom can take material from a wide range of sources and — if not always making it “his own” — at least adapting it to his style. And, when you think about it, it’s quite a tribute that this CD was ever put together.

Over the years many compilation albums have featured Tom’s hits and most everyone has heard those. But there have also been special recordings, others like the Matador Studio cast in which Tom either played a role, although a smaller role than in Matador, or contributed one number heard almost exclusively on that one album.

Among these are:

Under Milk Wood— 50th Anniversary (1988 EMI CD 791232 2 (UK)/December, 2003 US) on which Tom sings Mr Waldo Come And Sweep My Chimbley

Tycoon (1992 Sony/Epic 471923) on which Tom sings I Would Love to Change the World (The Businessman’s Blues)

Andrew Lloyd Webber Gold (May 7, 2002 Decca) on which Tom sings The Vaults of Heaven from the Webber score for Whistle Down the Wind (performed with The Sounds of Blackness)

Martin Scorsese Presents DVD of Red, White and Blues (2003), there’s a bit more of Tom’s work and other stuff not on the music CD, notably performances by Van Morrison.

David Foster: The Christmas Album (1993 Interscope 792295-2) on which Tom sings Mary’s Boy Child.

Before doing an entire CD together, Tom collaborated on a song for More Friends with Jools Holland in 2003. The song on that album is one they wrote called Don’t You Kiss My Cheek.

He teamed with Italian star Zucchero on the latter’s 2004 CD Zu & Co, delivering a peppy, kind of silly song called Pippo. Tom is only on the Italian original of the CD, along with Sting, BB King, John Lee Hooker, Miles Davis, Jeff Beck and Sheryl Crow. The US version — which, for some odd reason, was carried in Starbucks — only has 14 tracks instead of the original’s 18 tracks and Tom is not on it.

At the end of 2006, Tom did two numbers on the Jools Holland CD, Moving Out to the Country. One is the Jerry Lee Lewis song, I Wish I Were 18 Again. On the other, Friends Not Lovers, Tom shares writing credit with Jools Holland.

Soundtracks:

In addition to the work noted above, Tom can be heard on the soundtracks of many film and television shows. Many of these feature older hits (It’s Not Unusual, She’s A Lady, etc.) but many are originals, written just for the particular project. Some of the latter were hits or released as singles (What’s New Pussycat, Thunderball and Promise Her Anything, for example). Others are often only available only as part of recording of the entire score or on his albums. These include: Come To Me from Henry Mancini’s 1982 score for Supercop.

The best exact listing of Tom’s music used in movie soundtracks can be found at The Soundtrack Info Project.

A Word About Some Compilations:
the soul of tom jones(Note: We’re not talking about legitimate compilation projects — like the ones mentioned above — to which Tom made a contribution with other artists. We’re taking about those CDs you see in the the bargain bins from off-brand labels that are compiled without the cooperation or, even, knowledge of Tom and his management.) There are way too many Tom Jones albums floating around to properly catalog and, in truth, buying a TJ CD can be a daunting process if you want something of quality. Far too many are just lame compliations of the disco-heavy stuff from the Canadian 1981 Coast to Coast series. Of course, among the dross you can find some gold. Cases in point: The very interesting Atomic Jones CD which is out of print but often available on eBay. Lots of early TJ and detailed liner notes. A CD called The Soul of Tom Jones, put out in 1989 by Pickwick Music, a London company is another. It’s got a good selection of the music at which Tom excels — R & B and Motown — and decent liner notes with a fine cover photo. But CDs of this quality are exceedingly rare. So, as in so many other instances, “buyer beware.” But if you can find this one, by all means get it.

Tom On DVD

titj coverWe’re going to add to this section as more DVDs become available in North America, but fans in 2007 are ecstatic that This Is Tom Jones is finally being released by Time Life in a three-disc DVD set. We’d personally like to see more Tom Jone here and less of his guests doing solos, but the DVD is nonetheless wonderful. It’s a must-have for a fan, even a fan who wasn’t born in 1969 (and there are plenty of those, right?).

Many of Tom’s fans wish he’d done — and will do — more films. Two in which he appeared most notably to sing already-established hits are:

Mars Attacks!, the 1996 Tim Burton science fiction fantasy that is silly, boasts lots of movie stars of all magnitudes who seem to be having a grand time and is (especially to Tom Jones fans) notable for the following bit of dialogue:

Jim Brown: (to Tom in the midst of a martian attack on Las Vegas): Can you fly a plane?”
Tom: Sure. Do you have one?
It really is lots of fun.

agnes browne








Angelica Huston’s very sweet but kind of sappy film Agnes Browne, made in 2000, again finds Tom playing himself and, in this instance, fulfilling an Irish housewife’s dreams.

Ellen

(If you have anything to add or correct, please let me know. Thanks.)
You can find a complete list of Tom’s radio and TV appearances on the BBC here. Note: The first “Tom Jones” on the BBC list, isn’t our Tom; that one was on the radio in April 1940.