If you see me comin', better step aside
A lotta men didn't, a lotta men died
One fist of iron, the other of steel
If the right one don't a-get you, then the left one will
Badass! You want a spunky hunky brawling Welshman but weren’t quick enough to book 1537 for your Christmas party? well, I’ve found another one for ya. Tom Jones Green Green Grass Of Home; forget all those Beatle clones and Rolling Drones, this is the real sound of ’67, dig?
Poor Tom, with all his wealth, fame, fabulous gilded success, casino residencies and heart/pants-throbbery, just where did it all go wrong for this boy from the valleys?
Tom Jones was blessed with a full-on powerful baritone he sounded great as a blues shouter early on in his career and certainly had the engine to be a rocker. Journeying to the promised land of the US, he allowed himself to be schmaltzed up and burnished a bit too much as his management positioned him as a crooner for a more mature audience when his initial impetus dipped. Never a songwriter, he was reliant on the song choices he made/was offered with sadly variable results by the time 1967 rolled around.
Green Green Grass Of Home contains a few real belters and a bunch of bollocks, it is undoubtedly a bit of a creature hailing from the strange hinterland before LPs weren’t considered entities in and of themselves, rather than just a collection of songs the artist had squeezed out during that session. As a result there is little cohesion and no readily identifiable attempts at contriving a pace and drive to the LP, or too much thought given to sequencing here. But hey, it is what it is, a long player designed for a mature mass market.
We are all about the positives here at 1537 and so let’s have them:
- Riders In The Sky: a rip-snorting take on a great tune, Jones gives it some real voltage without over-singing it*.
- 16 Tons: a coal-miner’s son himself, Jones gives this one something quite heartfelt in places. Plus you have to love an ‘If you see me comin’, better step aside’ lyric, what a problem child.
- Two Brothers: I had no idea I was in the market for a civil war** anti-war weepie? again there is a lot of feeling on this one.
- Green Grass Of Home: the definitive version, one of only three songs I have ever sung at karaoke. Yes it is a bit smooth, but worth it for that voice and his plummy tones during the speaking bit^.
- Ring Of Fire: just listen to that awesome funky guitar! I know he ain’t Cash but I love this for a bit of light relief.
That’s as far as Green Green Grass Of Home and I can go for a stroll down Positivity Boulevard. After that there is some schlock, some misjudged tunes (why do that to ‘Cool Water’?), some over singing and some stuff that just should not be. With a voice and charisma as rich as Jones’ it should never have happened that way.
Nobody can rock a checked sports jacket with the same aplomb as Tom does on the back cover and it is nice to see him looking like a normal tough, rather than as the strangely-hued 5lbs of sausage stuffed into a 2lb sausage-skin that we are presented with today. Tom of course qualifies for 1537 bonus points for his casual legs akimbo stance on the front cover.
So definitely one for the time capsule here. Green Green Grass Of Home, tripped out front cover border aside, was about as far removed from the counter culture as most people actually were in 1967; which is fine. So let us give praise for the good here and just remember to step aside, if you see me comin’.
PS: I actually picked this LP, out of the two Tom Jones LPs I own, to review as I am currently 567 pages through Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones – not knowing that it was the success of the excellent 1963 film of the book, that Tom Jones changed his name to Tom Jones to capitalise on. I had just assumed like Cliff Richard, Lady Gaga, Madvillain and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Tom was just using his given name.
PPS: Excellent book, by the way.
*something of a vice of his.
**US style, it isn’t a Cavaliers vs. Roundheads number.
^have I told you lately just how much I love speaking bits in songs?!!