OnlineRock Blog

14 January 2012

Jack White Invites Tom Jones to Record on Third Man Records

By Tomi Mendel

Music fans need to brace themselves for the March 5th arrival of a rather unusual collaboration. As a part of its so-called “Blue Series,” Jack White’s Third Man Records plans to release a new single featuring the former White Stripes frontman and famed “What’s New Pussycat?” crooner Tom Jones. While probably no one would describe this pairing as “long-awaited,” it’s an interesting, surprising collaboration that is almost certain to be a treat. 

Yep, that’s right.

Jack White is no stranger to unusual musical partners. According to the Third Man website, the concept of his “Blue Series” recordings is to invite musicians who pass through to “stop by and record a song or two.” These guest musicians have included acts as diverse as Wanda Jackson, Insane Clown Posse, Jeff The Brotherhood and actors John C. Reilly and Stephen Colbert. Their recordings, produced by White, are all released as 7” singles on vinyl, as well as made available digitally on iTunes. In this case, Jones and White have recorded a cover of “Evil” by blues legend Howlin’ Wolf, backed by a new version of “Jezebel,” a song from Jones’ 2002 album, Mr. Jones. 

Colbert’s contribution to the Blue Series.

The series’ numerous eclectic collaborations have tended toward many similarly hip blues, country and garage covers, helping Jack White continue to stake out his territory as the “go-to guy” for reviving all manner of rootsy, raw music from the past. To his credit, he has not been averse to tackling material that is often maligned in rock circles, including notable covers of “Jolene” by Dolly Parton and “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. 

Jack White takes on Paul McCartney.

For his part, despite being generally associated with giddy old ladies and Vegas-style, powerhouse crooning, Tom Jones is, in fact, sneakily cooler than you thought he was. The seventy-one year old Welsh singer got his start in the mid-1960s, making some early recordings with legendary, innovative producer Joe Meek. It was the beginning of a career full of fascinating genre-bending and unique collaborations. 

“Little Lonely One,” an early singles with Joe Meek.

He went from topping the country charts in 1976 with “Say You’ll Stay Until Tomorrow” to later working with electronic music pioneers the Art of Noise on an unusual cover of Prince’s “Kiss.” Other surprising covers Jones has undertaken include “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” by Arctic Monkeys and “Burning Down The House” by Talking Heads. Outside of music, Jones managed to make self-mocking appearances on The Simpsons and in the movie Mars Attacks! His long, successful career has proven that there will always be a place for someone with a great sense of humor and a knockout singing voice. 

Jones singing the heck out of Orbison’s “In Dreams,” pre-Blue Velvet. Impressively, there’s no falsetto involved.

Interestingly, there were already some connections between Jack White and Tom Jones before this new collaboration. Coincidentally, two of Jones’ biggest hits involved some of White’s aforementioned reclamation projects, namely Bacharach/David (on “What’s New Pussycat”) and Dolly Parton (his U.K. chart-topping cover of “Islands in the Stream”). In addition, Jones has shown a predilection for the same kind of traditional blues music that White admires, covering blues standard “Motherless Child” with Portishead, for instance. Regarding the upcoming recordings, Jack White said that Jones “impressed the shit out of everybody.” Perhaps with a closer look at Jones’ long career, White might not have been quite so surprised.


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