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Tom Jones' 'Praise & Blame' gets praise .... after blame

July 28, 2010 |  2:07 pm

Tom Jones-Marco Grob

Tom Jones is already picking up some major praise for his new “Praise & Blame” album that’s out Tuesday, but only after suffering a few slings and arrows from within the ranks at Island Records, the label that signed him last year for about $2.5 million after he left EMI Records.

When I put the CD into my player the first time, I was happily jolted by the power of Jones’ voice on a collection of rootsy gospel and blues tunes that explore the music the Welsh singer fell in love with as a kid, but which has cropped up infrequently on his recordings over the years. But David Sharpe, an Island senior vice president on the financial side, wasn’t so thrilled.

“My initial pleasure came to an abrupt halt when I realized that Tom Jones was singing the hymns!” Sharpe said in an internal e-mail that found its way onto the Internet. “I have just listened to the album in its entirety and want to know if this is some sick joke?”

Apparently, Sharpe had been expecting something more in line with Jones’ career-making hits, such as  “It’s Not Unusual” and “What’s New Pussycat?,” or his latter-day collaborations with contemporary pop stars such as his 1988 version of Prince’s “Kiss” with the Art of Noise, his 1999 Mousse T.-produced hit “Sex Bomb” and his 2000 teaming with the Stereophonics on Randy Newman’s “Mama Told Me Not to Come.”

Jones responded: “When I questioned [the label] and said, 'What the hell is this all about? Who is this fella? I don't even know who he is,' I found out that he's some fella who signs checks or something. But he's not in the creative side of it and they're 100% behind it, but people don't know that."

Sharpe has since apologized for his remarks, prompting a few skeptics to suggest the whole thing was a publicity stunt.

Jones isn’t buying it.

"People tell me that all publicity is good publicity, that's what I've been told,” he said. “People say to me, 'Well it's being talked about,' but to me it's being talked about in a negative way. Hopefully, if there's any good that comes out of it, it's that people will wonder about [the new album]. But it isn't the way I would handle it, by going and making a stupid statement. That's not going to help it. They've apologized, they can't apologize enough -- and they've said, 'We'll make good on this.' "

-- Randy Lewis

Photo of Tom Jones. Credit: Marco Grob / Lost Highway Records

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