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Tom Jones - Help Yourself (Album Review)

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Tom Jones - Help Yourself (Album Review)

While Delilah, What's New Pussycat, and It's Not Unusual are permanently etched into my mind, due to their addictive musicality and Jones' textual, but smooth tones, I am constantly amazed by the sheer catalogue of music Tom Jones has recorded over the years.

Help Yourself is, in my opinion, the first album Jones released that truly showed off his musical chops. The recording also has a high-quality production and mastering that still holds up today. Any attempts at remastering this album, beyond the digitisation done by Decca in 1989, would arguably be a mistake as it has an analog tone that is reminiscent of the sound and recording techniques from the era. This is obviously a case of if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

I generally find these classic album covers, highlighting the artist along with a list of songs, to be compelling. Yes, it is a dying art to include this information, but it is so much better than slapping a sticker onto the vinyl outer sleeve, or CD case. Regardless, the streaming versions of Help Yourself omit song titles, but I have noted the original vinyl editions did include this information. I don’t know about you, but I believe that album artwork should be presented in the same manner as the original release. Unless, of course, it is a Deluxe Edition or other variant. Okay, so I guess streaming is a variant and my argument isn’t as sound as I would like it to be, but I trust you understand my inference.

Help Yourself has a beautiful brass introduction that instantly transports my mind to the era. It is upbeat and the accompanying Caribbean presentation is perfectly matched to Jones' baritone vocal in both pitch and octave variation.

I Can't Break The News To Myself is a fun song with an addictive groove. What I love most about this track is the vocal clarity as I find it increasingly difficult to decipher lyrics in modern pop and rock music. When vocals are clear I tend to listen for meaning, when they are over processed or not well defined, I treat the vocal as nothing more than another instrument in the composition. Yes, I could look up the lyrics, but that is not how I enjoy listening to music.

The Bed has a fantastic blues-inspired guitar introduction that immediately reminds me of John Fogerty's musical style. Overall, The Bed is a fantastic song that once again shows why Tom Jones is a superb vocalist.

Isadora is simply gorgeous. A perfect composition. I love it!

Set Me Free is an absolute classic that stands the test of time. It’s a song that is genre blended and anyone with a passing interest in Country, Blues, or Rock music would really enjoy Set Me Free.

I Get Carried Away has a very similar style to another song from the same era, yet I am drawing a complete blank on the name of the song. You will notice the similarity mostly in the introduction and chorus. If anyone can suggest the other song I may be thinking of, I would appreciate you letting me know. Despite the similarity, I thoroughly enjoy I Get Carried Away and find that it is a song I never tire of.

This House (The House Song) is a lovely song and the vocal delivery is buttery smooth.  

So Afraid is an exceptional song!

If I Promise has a hip-gyrating pace that would have been incredible to see live. It is a fun song and I love the brass band sound.

If You Go Away is a gloomy song, but is perfect when considering lyrical context. I thoroughly enjoy this song!

My Girl Maria is another song that would have been incredible when performed live. That said, I feel this recording lacks emotion that arguably would have been more present in a live performance. Nevertheless, it is a lovely song.

All I Can Say Is Goodbye is a solid easy listening tune, but it is nothing to write home about.

Ten Guitars is unfortunately greyed out on TIDAL Hi-Fi; generally, this indicates there is a licensing issue that is yet to be resolved. However, you can cheat and listen to the song on The Legendary Tom Jones - 30th Anniversary Album. Interestingly, if you use Spotify, they automatically switch to the other album for the song that is greyed out. I wish TIDAL would offer that feature, although one must wonder if it is the best approach from the standpoint of contractual obligations. Regardless, Ten Guitars is a twang fest that I have mixed feelings about. It isn’t one of the strongest recordings, definitely a B-side, but it is strangely addictive.

What A Party has a New Orleans sound that many will like. As for me, I find this effort to be merely adequate.

Looking Out My Window is an incredible track. It has energy, rhythm, and is well suited to Jones' vocal style.

Can't Stop Loving You is beautiful.

Let There Be Love is so well suited to Jones; the musicality is spot on. Classic Tom Jones recordings don't get much better than this.

Without Love is a lovely song with a spoken word introduction that brings the meaning of the song to the forefront of the experience. As the song builds, I am blown away by the depth of Jones' vocal. As the final track on the album, it will compel you to listen to the album again, or stay within the Tom Jones catalogue.

Help Yourself is an incredible album that plays like a greatest hits release. While I still believe his best work can be heard on Praise And Blame and Spirit In The Room, Help Yourself is one of his greatest recordings.  

For this review, I listened to the 1989 mastering on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Other than the omitted track, this edition was an absolute pleasure to listen to. Yes, it has a slightly concealed sound, but that is reminiscent of the style applied during the era. It is also important to note that this edition is extended from the original 1968 LP. For reference, the original release ended with All I Can Say Is Goodbye. Despite this, either tracking makes for an exceptional release and the additional tracks blend well, making it a very enjoyable album experience.

Help Yourself is available for purchase on iTunes. For those who prefer streaming, the album is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Tom Jones - Praise And Blame (Album Review)

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Tom Jones - Praise And Blame (Album Review)

I recently read Tom Jones' autobiography, Over The Top And Back. It is an exceptional read, a real page-turner. If you’re remotely interested in the Welshman with soulful tones, then I implore you to pick up a copy.

I tend to listen to corresponding albums when reading musical autobiographies. I feel it brings me closer to the artist and allows me to fully appreciate just how talented they are. While I have always been aware of Tom Jones, it was only as the caricature that the media would often portray him as being. You know, the Vegas resident singer who is known for the plethora of panties thrown in his direction. Sometimes it can be difficult to remove one's longstanding viewpoint, but in reading his life story, and listening to his albums, I have a newfound appreciation for his recordings and artistry. It is with this in mind that I decided to add some of his albums to my collection. Unfortunately, many are out-of-print, but his later works are easily accessible. There are, of course, countless compilations.

Regardless, his last few albums are incredible and he has proven that it’s not unusual to sing more than Delilah, Sex Bomb, or the incredibly kitsch What’s New Pussycat?.

As I went searching for records, I noticed that Praise And Blame was still available for order on vinyl. Increasingly, I find myself using Subjective Sounds as a form of purchase justification. Yes, consumerism is alive and well. The truth is, if I didn't do it this way, I would procrastinate with my own thoughts for days. Anyway, let's take a listen and see if Praise And Blame is worthy of being added to my vinyl collection.

What Good Am I? is Johnny Cash merged with Tom Jones. It is exceptionally moody and the monotone beat perfectly complements Jones' vocal style and the musicality of the song. I dare say, this is one song that would reproduce beautifully on vinyl.

Lord Help shifts the album to a different beat. It is addictive and you will be toe tapping and head bopping from the first note. Despite it being rather different to What Good Am I? the flow and tracking does not feel disjointed. While I feel Jones' vocals are a little hidden in the soundstage, it is an excellent song that showcases his incredible range.

Did Trouble Me slows things down again but, as aforementioned, it doesn't seem out of place or disjointed. I'd go as far as saying this album is a perfect example of how to track an album properly. Jones' vocals are more forward in the soundstage of this song and I simply love it, along with the plucking of that banjo.

Strange Things is a fun song, but I feel Jones over performs on this track. Also, I don’t feel the backing vocals are well suited to the song as they simply feel out of place with the overall style of the album.

Burning Hell is blues-based rock and roll heaven. Burning Hell has to be one of Jones' greatest recordings. I love it!

If I Give My Soul is gorgeous!

Don't Knock is a solid B-side, but I don't feel it blends well with the other songs on the album. Again, I feel the backing vocals simply don’t work. Jones can demand an audience’s attention on his own, hence backing vocalists are largely superfluous unless they add substantially to the song.

Nobody's Fault But Mine is incredible! The mix, the mastering, and most importantly the musicality is off the charts with this song.

Didn't It Rain is another fantastic toe tapping, head bopping song. While Didn't It Rain does have backing vocals, they are in a lower register that works better with the album style and Jones' own deep vocal presentation.

Ain't No Grave is an exceptional B-side.

Run On is a fantastic song to close the album with. It encourages me to not only listen again but stay within the incredible catalogue of music that Tom Jones has given us over the years.

I have to give praise to all the musicians and personnel who made this album possible. It is nothing short of astonishing. I also need to blame those same individuals for giving me no other option than to purchase this incredible recording on vinyl.

Praise And Blame is one of the best albums Tom Jones has ever made, although the follow-up, Spirit In The Room, is hard to beat.

For this review, I listened to the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition and sonically it was perfection in every aspect of the word. If I were unable to purchase vinyl release, I would not feel remorse as it is that good.

Praise And Blame is available for purchase on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store, and iTunes. For those who prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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