Big-hearted, booming Welsh show-stopping singer Tom Jones (not his real name, I just learned, so BigSteve was not joking in our recent Last Man Standing) may go from “0 to 60” in intensity quicker than any other singer in (relatively) modern music. There’s a special approach to his burst of intensity that I feel exemplifies a certain type of male singing. It’s as if he takes a guttural scoop toward any material put in front of him. You can hear it on the opening lines in one of his early hits, “It’s Not Unusual.” Jones comes right at the listener like a firm handshake:
There’s no denying Jones’ aggressive approach to such a swinging song, but what makes him special is his ability to dig in on a tender waltz-time ballad like “Delilah.”
Paired with a fellow pedal-to-the-metal singer like Joe Cocker on a version of “Delta Lady” you’d think Jones’ approach wouldn’t stand out as much, but hold onto your seat at the 30-second mark, when Jones first enters the song. That’s the kind of approach to singing anything that separates Jones from the “can’t drive 55” pack. For contrast, it takes Cocker 1:11 to muster up the intensity of a cruisin’ Jones.
Here’s another melodramatic ballad, a 1974 performance of “I Who Have Nothing,” in which Jones makes Jumpsuit Elvis, by comparison, seem as understated as Stuart Murdoch.
Correct me if I’m wrong in thinking that Tom Jones’ approach to singing might serve as the basis for an RTH Glossary entry, and if I’m onto something, please help me determine a term that future generations of rock historians could apply to singers who employ this approach to singing any song. Thank you.