In 1988, the (then) heavy metal magazine Kerrang! published one of the greatest April Fool's gags in music history. In a brilliantly written exclusive, Kerrang! revealed that Tom Jones had joined Black Sabbath for an upcoming album and tour. The collaboration, readers were told, came about after Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi had joined Jones onstage in Las Vegas for renditions of 'Paranoid', 'War Pigs' and, best of all, 'It's Not Unusual'.
The following week Kerrang! broke the good/bad news that Tom and Tony weren't teaming up, leaving many impressionable teenagers and twentysomethings to ponder/shudder at what might have been.
After hearing Jones rip it up on 'Praise & Blame' the Sabbath story sounds even more plausible than it did 22 years ago.
A whole career away from the hits and knicker-dodging which he's built his legend upon, the album finds Jones reborn as a spit and sawdust blues man and testifier, ripping through covers and originals and sounding like a character at the end of his days and an artist with some of his best still to come.
This is a makeover similar to what Rick Rubin did for Johnny Cash with the 'American' records, but Jones opts for more swing and stomp and has Ethan Johns at the controls egging him on. The Ryan Adams and Kings of Leon producer and Jones make a brilliant co-writing team and hopefully this won't be a one-off - the thoughts of them coming up with more songs of the class of 'Didn't It Rain' and 'Run On' and tackling, the likes of, say, The White Stripes' 'Blue Orchid', Danzig's 'I'm the One' or The Screaming Trees' 'Dollar Bill' together give goose bumps the size of amps.
It's unusual for big artists to take big risks: ironically the more famous they are the more they need to play it safe. But 'Praise & Blame' shows that, at 70, Jones still has the fire in his belly to push himself and his fans. He will pick up plenty of new ones after this and, you expect, his phone will start ringing a whole lot more.
Tony, don't lose that number.