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Tipping Point: Our picks and pans (Tom Jones, "The Plot," Crowded House"

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Surrounded by Time

Tom Jones

Tom Jones is 80 years old. His voice sounds as though he’s 20. It’s amazing that he can still sing with the power, range and emotion that he does on this CD. The collection of covers he takes on includes everything from from Bob Dylan’s “One More Cup of Coffee to Cat Stevens’ “Pop Star.” I don’t like the songs here as much as on other Jones’s works (I lean toward the melodic, more R&B-tinged pieces), but that’s a personal preference. And clearly others disagree. With “Surrounded by Time,” Jones became the oldest man ever to have a #1 album on the British charts.

 — Kristina Dorsey


The Plot

Jean Hanff Korelitz

Most scholars accept there are only seven "plots" from which novelists draw. I guess one of them is: frustrated author somehow becomes privy to a great plot and has reason to believe he or she can steal it without getting caught because it's an occasionally recurring motif in suspense fiction. Jake is a former literary-underkind-turned-mediocre-professor. An annoying student shares a sure-thing idea with Jake, then ends up dead a few years later. Jake sniffs around, realizes the pupil never did anything with his concept, and helps himself to the idea. As written by Jake, the novel indeed becomes a huge hit. Jake's reputation is restored, he's a star, and he even meets the woman of his dreams. It's all perfect until the first "I know you stole this book" note arrives. The fun starts. Can Jake find out who knows before his life is ruined? And, if so, what's he going to do about it? Oh: you can't really say Korelitz stole the "stole the idea" idea even though it HAS been done. Because the nuances and characters and the surprises are all Korelitz — and the wink-wink satire of the publishing industry alone is worth the ride.

CD Tip

Dreamers are Waiting

Crowded House

Have I spent more time in my life listening to Crowded House than any other band? Yeah, probably. Am I wary of new product at this point? Sort of. After all, there have been plenty of gaps between albums and long periods where the band didn't really exist. After personnel shuffling, co-founders Neil Finn — the band's resident genius — and bassist Nick Seymour have been joined by original CH producer Mitchell Froom and Finn's two sons, Liam and Elroy. Guess what? The dreaded "nepotism" factor brings mostly good things, and Froom's creative ears bring more magic. I do miss multi-instumentalist Mark Hart, who's out of the mix, but it's the elder Finn's show, so ... As for the tunes: While the instant Chorus Hookage isn't as immediate as the early days, these songs are so artfully composed and structured that the impulse to listen again and again is a perpetually rewarding and escalating excercise. I was mildly impressed at first. Now, I consider "Dreamers are Waiting" a truly fine, A-Z listening experience reflecting Neil Finn's artistic evolution within the vessel of the House.

— Rick Koster



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