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July 25-31, 2007

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'This is Tom Jones'

It's Not Unusual: Jones' short-lived TV series highlighted sensational, one-of-a-kind performances.

Sound + Vision

New music DVDs recall the odd glory days of rock TV

By Greg Cahill


This is Tom Jones (Shout Factory/Time Life)

Still riding high on his 1965 smash-hit single "It's Not Unusual," singer Tom Jones snared a network TV show between 1969 and 1971 when ABC executives needed a sexy but safe showman to spice up its prime-time schedule. That program This is Tom Jones, hosted by the Welsh baritone with the R&B-inflected vocal style, provides the content for this newly released three-DVD collection of the same title. Jones showcased some of the hottest pop, rock, R&B and soul acts around. As a result, this set is packed with sensational, one-of-a-kind performances.

The highlights include Aretha Franklin at the height of her powers during the "Spirit in the Dark" phase of her career; Stevie Wonder, who lays down a five-minute drum solo; Janis Joplin , who had just dumped Big Brother in favor of the tighter, funkier band she used on the Pearl album; Joe Cocker with the Grease Band; and a very sweaty Little Richard.

The show's format called for duets with Jones and his special guests, and Jones more than holds his own with each of these stars. He knew his limitations but was moved to push himself further when paired with a soul legend like Aretha.

Even his laidback duets with songwriter Burt Bacharach are priceless. Less successful are spots with the Who and the Moody Blues, who deliver canned music and no interaction with the host.

The eight episodes included here also feature such cutting-edge comedy acts as Richard Pryor, Pat Paulsen and the Committee.

Don't let the tight pants, flamboyant shirts and go-go dance moves fool you--Tom Jones has the stuff!


The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder: Punk & New Wave (Shout Factory)
The Tomorrow Show: Tom Snyder's Electric Kool-Aid Talk Show (Shout Factory)

Late-night talk-show host Tom Snyder was the quintessential square. From 1973 to 1982, his bumbling persona became fodder for then-Saturday Night Live cast member Dan Aykroyd, who spoofed Snyder repeatedly. Still Snyder, who died July 30, 2007, brought some of the most vibrant rockers of his time to the small screen.

With the 30th anniversary of the punk revolution underway, The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder: Punk & New Wave gathers the likes of Iggy Pop, the Ramones, the Plasmatics, Patti Smith, John Lydon and Elvis Costello. The first episode, which coincided with Rolling Stone magazine's first article about the then-fledgling punk scene, features a surreal conversation between Snyder, rock impresario Bill Graham, music manager Kim Fowley, LA Times music critic Robert Hilburn, Paul Weller of the Jam and Joan Jett of the Runaways.

The verdict: Graham couldn't decide if punk was just a flash in the pan--he would go on largely to ignore the phenomenon; Hilburn offered an overly analytical critique of the genre's song forms; Fowley, who at the time managed the lightweight pop star Helen Reddy, babble incoherently; and Joan Jett let Snyder know that, no, it wasn't likely that she one day would become the very establishment she was acting out against since an all-girl punk band like the Runaways was never going to get rich and famous. She was right abouth the rich part.

In a 1980 segment, John Lydon, then on the road to promote his post-Sex Pistols band PiL, seethes with contempt for the talk-show host. A 1981 appearance by a severely drugged out and self-abused Iggy Pop is painful to watch, though he rocks while performing songs from the Soldier album.

The 1981 interview with the Ramones is worth the price of admission. The guest host keeps trying to brush Joey Ramones' bangs out of his eyes, causing the singer to cringe in sheer terror--evidently she didn't know he suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder.

The Tomorrow Show: Tom Snyder's Electric Kool-Aid Talk Show is a suitable companion for the rest of the Summer of Love nostalgia being hawked these days. It compiles various segments that separately featured key figures in the 1960s psychedelic rite of passage known as the Kool-Aid Acid Tests: LSD advocate Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey, Tom Wolfe, and the Grateful Dead all share the stage with the penultimate square. The Dead also perform four songs: "On the Road Again," "Cassidy," "Dire Wolf" and "Deep Elem Blues."

Tom Snyder and Timothy Leary--talk about the odd couple!


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