DVD REVIEW: This Is Tom Jones

I would imagine that Tom Jones’ fans worldwide (and there are a LOT of them) are anxiously awaiting the release of This Is Tom Jones, his new DVD set produced by the folks at Time-Life. If so, their wait is almost over. The three disc set, encompassing eight of the best episodes from his TV variety show (which ran from 1969 to 1971) is being released on June 26th, and according to my calendar that’s just around the corner.

Tom Jones – born Thomas John Woodward – is of course the Welsh legend who started as an unknown pop singer in Great Britain, but became one of the biggest musical stars around. His transformation began in the mid 1960’s (about the time he simplified his name) when he began dressing up his act, becoming more of a crooner and less of a belter, and that makeover – along with his smoldering sex appeal – turned him into a star.

These episodes from his TV show (which was also titled This Is Tom Jones) provide a good time capsule of both the show and the look and sound of entertainment at that time. The current Tom provides an introduction to each segment, complete with his memories of those days, and a separate interview with him is included as a bonus feature. (Added thought – although the lighting is subdued and flattering to him in these scenes, he still looks pretty darn good.)

The value of this set is two-fold. First, the obvious one — Tom’s fans will love it. His charisma, stage presence, and swagger are on full display. But for those who are less interested in him and his singing, the chance to see many of the entertainers of the era in their prime can still provide a lot of enjoyment. Seeing quality video of singers, dancers and comedians from almost forty years ago provides an experience very much like actually being there.

If you’re old enough to remember those days, it’s not difficult to let your mind take you back as you watch performers that include Stevie Wonder, Richard Pryor, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, The Who, Little Richard, The Moody Blues, and even Joe Cocker and the Grease Band. (The details of all performers and their acts are too numerous to spell out here, but a partial listing can be accessed by clicking on the link at the bottom, and a full listing is available at the Time-Life website.)

Every program includes numerous guest stars, with talented musicians performing their hits and comedians doing their acts. I even spotted Bob Hope doing some standup, which is something you’ll probably not see on other collections.

Although younger viewers might not have the memories of those times to draw on, they can still enjoy the performances of legendary entertainers whose names they might recognize, and as an added benefit can enjoy the almost Austin Power-ish look of the costumes, hairstyles and dancing.

You can see some differences in the way the shows are staged during the run of the original program, since the earlier ones are a little less polished. Some scenes from the later shows almost have a Las Vegas glitz quality to them. The DVD’s themselves are pretty well done — the picture is generally sharp although a tiny bit ghosty at times (not unlike watching a good TV in those days) and colors look OK. (Strangely, one show on one DVD is in black and white. In his introduction, Tom says that’s all they had for that one.) Sound quality is acceptable. Run time 300 minutes. Aspect, 1:33 to 1.

You know, you really have to hand it to Time-Life. They’ve probably been more responsible than any other media company for providing an almost endless supply of retro music, video and books. Their name has almost become synonymous with nostalgia, and although I’m sure that it’s been a good, profitable business for them, we shouldn’t discount the impact they’ve had in keeping a lot of memories alive. (Besides, the last time I checked, making a profit is perfectly legal.)

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