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Thread: Hey Buddy, Can You Spare A Dime? The World of Tom Waits

  1. #11
    Offline: Depressed Trollheart's Avatar
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    ”Probably see someone you know on Heartattack and Vine" croaks Waits in the title track, and perhaps you can. Maybe they're one of those ”Pedal pushers suckin' on a soda pop" or the woman being left sleeping as her lover steals away in “Ruby's Arms”, or maybe even the guy who warns “If I can find a book of matches/ I'm gonna burn this hotel down” in “Mr. Siegal". For this album Waits created another cast of characters, all stumbling through their lives and trying to do the best they can, while grabbing what little happiness or shelter they could on the way. It was two years later, and four years into what I think of as the Waits golden era, when he came up with this gem, which would lead to his songs being covered by a real icon and also to a protracted legal battle over the use of one of them. It was also the year he would part company with his longtime record label.

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    Heartattack and Vine
    --- 1980 (Asylum)


    One thing - one of the many things - I love about this album is the cover. From the start, Waits has always been on the album sleeve. Sometimes looking a little the worse for wear, but here he's in a hell of a state. On one of the monologues on Nighthawks at the Diner, Waits growls that someone once commented “Christ Waits, you look so raggedy!” And here he does. He actually looks like he has been pulled through the proverbial bush backwards. Even though he's wearing a tuxedo, it looks as if someone dressed him when he was asleep or drunk or both, and he woke up, took one look at his reflection and said “What the hell am I doing in this monkey suit?”

    But the picture aside, the sleeve is very clever. It's presented like a newspaper, with the titles of some of the songs showing as the headlines, and underneath each are snippets of the lyrics to those songs, written like clippings with a reference to the city in which the song is set. Really innovative, and you can spend some time reading the cover and getting a whole lot more out of it than you would have expected. But that's the cover. What about the music on the disc inside?

    We open on the title track, and somehow there's a kind of honking guitar, which takes the first two bars of the song in before the vocal begins. Waits sings in a somewhat scratchier, and slightly higher register voice than he has up to now, though this album would see him try out several new vocal techniques and show just how versatile that sandpaper larynx was. He continues the kind of travelogue lyric he displayed on some of the songs on Nighthawks as he takes a trip down Hollywood and Vine, renamed for the song, and points out the various characters - ”See that little Jersey girl with the see-through top?” and ”Doctor, lawyer, beggarman, thief” - yes, all of human life is again on display in all its fragility and vulnerability.

    The song mostly continues on the same chords, apart from the bridge, where it changes very slightly - well, it could be a chorus: hard to say with Waits, as he seldom sticks to any musical rules and often makes his own up. It's a hard-rockin' tune though, probably the most in-your-face we've heard since, well, ever. It's almost a total change of style, from the breezy devil-may-care attitude of “Romeo Is Bleeding” or the maniacal killing spree in “Wrong Side of the Road”. You can just see him with his hands in his pockets, (at this stage he was getting his drinking under control, so let's assume his character has managed to kick the bottle too) strolling down the street, stopping under a lamppost to adjust his hat and light up a cigarette, grin at some girl across the road and saunter on.

    This is, to my knowledge (I'd have to check back but I think I'm right) the first time Waits has mentioned or brought God into his songs (other than exclamations like “Christ!” of course). It’s then the first time he’s actually written about him, or indeed the devil (though here he contends they are one and the same) and when he does it's not as a Bible-thumper - you'd never have expected that anyway - but with a sly wink and a dry joke at his expense. ”Don't you know there ain't no devil?” he grins. ”That's just God when he's drunk!” Love that line. This is the song that led to that lawsuit I spoke of in the introduction. Levi's used a cover of this by “Screamin'” Jay Hawkins, who had given them permission to, but Waits was not so sanguine about the idea. Someone who does not like his music being used to sell products, Waits took a case against Levis and won. Since then you won't find his music in any advertisements.



    Some great trumpet in this too, adds to the sort of raw feel of it as Waits snarls ”This stuff'll probably kill ya/ Let's do another line.” It's followed by an instrumental which could have come off The Heart of Saturday Night, as “In Shades” envisions him in a club where nobody is really listening to him, and he's playing background music against which people have their conversations and drink their drinks. There's some great Hammond organ from Ronnie Barron and some fine, laidback guitar too. I like the idea he's gone for, where you hear, in between the bars, people talking and glasses clinking, and when the song ends there's the barest smattering of applause. Clever too, how they applaud when the song hits a false ending. Very jazzy, and it leads into the first of four ballads, which I think may be the most he's had on any one album to this point.

    “Saving All My Love for You” is driven by Bob Alcivar's beautiful orchestral work again, the man having become something of a permanent fixture on Waits albums since he wrote the music for “Potter's Field” on Foreign Affairs. Pealing churchbells pull the tune in then are absorbed very cleverly into the actual melody as Waits's piano takes over. He sings of an early morning when "No-one in this town/ Is makin' any noise/ But the dogs, and the milkmen and me.” It's back to his familiar rough drawl as he admits ”I'd come home/ But I'm afraid that you won't/ Take me back.” The song also contains one of my alltime favourite Waits lines (this album has three, one of which I've already mentioned) when he sings ”I'll probably get arrested/ When I'm in my grave.” Did a line ever encompass a man's reputation so perfectly before?

    It's a beautiful ballad, relatively short, and then the tempo picks up a little on the organ-driven “Downtown” which kicks its heels along with a sort of sullen pleasure, dragging its feet and shaking its head. Some good boogie guitar joins the organ and the whole thing has a swagger about it, then the next one is one of perhaps his most famous, having been covered by Springsteen. With a simple acoustic guitar and bass, “Jersey Girl” is an uncomplicated song of young love, as Waits declares ”Nothing else matters in/ This whole wide world/ When you're in love/ With a Jersey girl.” Some lovely orchestral strings swelling up through the chorus here too. Wonderful song.

    And from a heartfelt love song we're on the other side of the coin as Waits sneers ”Baby I'll stay with you/ Till the money runs out” launching into the song with lowdown dirty delight as he sings ”Bye bye baby/ Baby bye bye!” Again the organ plays a prominent part in this mid-paced rocker, though so too does the bass from Larry Taylor. If anyone knows what “on the nickel” means, please let me know. I think it refers to social welfare? Anyway, it's the title of the next track, another beautiful ballad, which just shows how Waits can swing from cynical user to concerned observer, as with the backing of Alcivar's lush strings again he opens with another nursery rhyme snippet - ”Stick and stones/ Will break my bones” - and sings a lullaby to his child. Piano threads through the song, as does more folk rhymes - ”Better bring a bucket/ There's a hole in the pail/ If you don't get my letters/ You'll know that I'm in jail.”

    Even with this tender ballad under his belt, the best is yet to come in the closer. Waits drops his register even lower for the second part of the song, which gives it a rougher, rawer feel, then he switches from high to low as the song progresses. More nursery rhymes corrupted as he sings ”Ring around the roses/ Sleeping in the rain”. Then he warns ”The world just keep on getting bigger/ Once you get out on your own.” It's hard to choose a standout, as so many of the songs could qualify, but “Mr. Siegal” does contain another of my favourite lines, when he growls "How do the angels get to sleep/ When the devil leaves/ The porchlight on?” It's another bluesy, rocky tune with a scratchy vocal from Waits, scratchy guitar and warbling organ, moving the song along in a mid-paced swaying rhythm. With the references to casinos and the title presumably nodding to the famous gangster who built Las Vegas, it seems to be a song about a guy losing his shirt and trying to make it out of the city. Waits even tips his battered hat to The King when he sings ”One for the money/ Two for the show/ Three to get ready/ Now go man go!”

    He has in fact saved the best for last. One more heartsqueezing ballad before we're out, and it's one of his best. “Ruby's Arms” is the story of a man leaving his sleeping lover and stealing away in the early hours of the morning. As if he's spent himself with the rest of the album, Waits's voice is low and soft here (or perhaps he doesn't want to wake Ruby) and almost breaking with emotion as he tries to tear himself from her - ”The only thing I'm taking is/ The scarf off of your clothesline” - his piano and the orchestra combining beautifully to end the album on the very gentlest of closers, and prove once again that Waits can turn his hand to anything: he can make you cry, laugh, shock and scare you, open your eyes to a pitiless, unforgiving world or draw you into a secret, safe place where you can hide for a while. A true artist who has never compromised his art, and hopefully never will.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Heartattack and Vine
    2. In Shades
    3. Saving All My Love for You
    4. Downtown
    5. Jersey Girl
    6. Till the Money Runs Out
    7. On the Nickel
    8. Mr. Siegal
    9. Ruby's Arms

    Like Foreign Affairs, this album has a mere nine tracks, though just about every one is gold. The previous album had ten, but from this on in Waits's albums would be much longer, culminating in the triple box set Orphans: Bawlers, Brawlers and Bastards which would feature no less than fifty-six new tracks. That's not till 2006 though, and there are eleven more albums to go before we reach that, the next one being his first full movie soundtrack and a collaboration with a Country music superstar and legend.
    Come away, human child to the waters and the wild
    With a faery hand in hand.
    For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand. - WB Yeats "The Stolen Child"

    I drink to forget, but I never forget to drink.

    "If the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today
    He'd be gunned down cold by the CIA" - The The, "Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)" - Mind Bomb, 1989


    The most destructive force on the planet is not nukes or global warming...it is the human ego. - Ralph Rotten

  2. #12
    Member Amnesiac's Avatar
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    No one has ever been, will ever be, cooler than Tom Waits.


  3. #13
    Offline: Depressed Trollheart's Avatar
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    Um, this is slightly cooler...
    Come away, human child to the waters and the wild
    With a faery hand in hand.
    For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand. - WB Yeats "The Stolen Child"

    I drink to forget, but I never forget to drink.

    "If the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today
    He'd be gunned down cold by the CIA" - The The, "Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)" - Mind Bomb, 1989


    The most destructive force on the planet is not nukes or global warming...it is the human ego. - Ralph Rotten

  4. #14
    Offline: Depressed Trollheart's Avatar
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    This time out I'd like to concentrate on one particular aspect of Waits's writing, that of the slower, softer songs. He has them, to be sure. Much of his material is written with a hard, gritty edge, but occasionally he can be gentle, introspective, thoughtful in a way that may not always characterise his songs. The people he writes about are almost always struggling through their lives, or career, or some situation they have to get through. They might be dealing with an addiction, a loss, a broken love affair, but they usually have some sort of problem they have to face, and it doesn't always work out. Waits's characters are not heroes, or superhumans. They're not captains of industry or sportsmen, and they're not politicians or leaders. They're invariably ordinary Joes and Janes, pushing against the obstacles in their lives, trying to climb over often insurmountable barriers, keeping their heads down and facing into the cold wind, hoping it won't blow them over. They are, in many ways, reflections of you and me.


    Though at heart cynical in his writing, Waits can be tender too, though even then the sharp bitterness that permeates most of his songs tends to leak through. It's almost as if he doesn't want to be happy, or at least, doesn't want his characters to be happy. It's like he feels happiness is an illusion, and must be recognised and denied for what it is, stamped out before it has a chance to raise expectations that can only topple and fall in the end. Better to be miserable, and know you're miserable, than think you're happy. Even the brightest silver lining can be obscured by a cloud, and life ain't a bowl of cherries: it's hard, it's unfair, it's tough, and then you die.



    “Soldier's Things”, from
    Swordfishtrombones, 1983 (Island)


    Probably one of the most heartbreaking things the widow of a serviceman has to go through is finally getting rid of his personal possessions, and here Waits outlines a garage sale, where all the components that went to make up this soldier's life are put up for sale. On one level, it's dirty, grubby, distasteful as everything is examined and critiqued - ”This jacknife is rusted” - and the widow tries to put a brave face on it: ”All this radio really needs/ Is a fuse” or ”You can pound that dent out/ On the hood.”

    On another level though, it's a heartwrenching farewell as the wife sells the only things left that she has of her husband, or the things that perhaps remind her why he died. It's a sad compartmentalision of a life, breaking it down into its individual components - ”His rifle, his boots/ Full of rocks” - quite literally, the measure of a man. It would seem though, that the wife can't let everything go, as she decides to keep one of his medals: ”This one is for bravery/ And this one is for me” but everything else must go. ”Everything's a dollar/ In this box.”

    Perhaps even more poignant these days, with wars in foreign lands and soldiers dying for questionable causes, this was written before all those troubles, but it really doesn't matter, as unfortunately as long as there are men there will be wars, and as long as there are leaders there will be those who will die for them, or at their command. “Soldier's Things”, then, is just another example of the clinical, often cynical but ultimately realistic way Tom Waits looks at things. Even death.

    ”Davenports and kettle drums and swallow tail coats,
    Tablecloths and patent leather shoes.
    Bathing suits and bowling balls and clarinets and rings;
    All this radio really needs is a fuse.

    A tinker, a tailor, a soldier's things:
    His rifle, his boots full of rocks.
    Oh, and this one is for bravery,
    And this one is for me.
    And everything's a dollar in this box.

    Cuff links and hub caps, trophies and paperbacks.
    It's good transportation but the brakes aren't so hot.
    Necktie and boxing gloves;
    This jackknife is rusted.
    You can pound that dent out on the hood.

    A tinker, a tailor, a soldier's things:
    His rifle, his boots full of rocks.
    Oh and this one is for bravery.
    And this one is for me.
    And everything's a dollar in this box.”




    “Kentucky Avenue”, from Blue Valentine, 1978 (Asylum)

    One of the most tragic and tearjerking songs Waits has ever written, it begins as a very disarmingly charming conversation between two childhood friends, though there's only one side of the exchange heard in the lyric. It's apparently based on a real-life friend Waits had as a child, who suffered from polio, but you don't realise that until the end. As the song opens the boys are discussing (or at least, Waits is telling his friend) all the things they're going to do that day: simple things boys of that age do, like climb trees, hang out in disreputable and forbidden places, annoy older people. It's all very innocent, and as with many of Waits's songs, namechecks characters, some of whom are real and existed in his world, some of whom may be constructs or even composites of other people. Dicky Faulkner, Mrs. Storm and Ronnie Arnold are all mentioned; of these we only know Mrs. Storm existed. According to Waits, she was the typical “mad old woman” who always had a shotgun protruding out her window, on the lookout for kids who wanted to annoy her perhaps, or burglars. Or communists. Or gays. Or whatever angered and/or frightened her.

    The song is played in a slow piano melody, Waits's vocal at first quite matter-of-fact for him, then in the last verse he hits the reveal, with beautiful, melancholic strings joining the sparse melody as he moans like a wounded animal: ”I'll take the spokes from your wheelchair/ And a magpie's wings/ And I'll tie them to your shoulders/ And your feet” and we realise with shock that his friend is crippled, that all the things he speaks of doing with him are impossible, as the boy can't walk. With the typical blind optimism of childhood though, he believes he can ”Steal a hacksaw from my dad/ Cut the braces off your legs/ And we'll bury them tonight/ Out in the cornfield.”

    It's a powerful revelation, the first time you hear it, and Waits's angry, sullen, frustrated voice carries the song into new realms, where the innocence of childhood is shattered like so much cheap glass and lies strewn on the floor, tiny reflections of the crippled child winking back up at him from each fragment as if in mockery of his efforts. I cry every time I hear this song, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

    ”Eddie Grace's Buick got four bullet holes in the side;
    Charlie Delisle sittin' at the top of an avocado tree.
    Mrs Storm will stab you with a steak knife if you step on her lawn.
    I got a half a pack of “Lucky Strike”s, so come along with me.
    Lets fill our pockets with macadamia nuts,
    Then go over to Bobby Goodmansons
    And jump off the roof.

    Hilda plays strip poker while her mama's across the street:
    Joey Navinski says she put her tongue in his mouth.
    Dicky Faulkner's got a switchblade and some gooseneck risers.
    That eucalyptus is a hunchback;
    There's a wind out from the south.
    So let me tie you up with kite string:
    I'll show you the scabs on my knee.
    Watch out for broken glass, put your shoes and socks on
    And come along with me.

    Lets follow that fire truck ---
    I think your house is burnin' down.
    Then go down to the hobo jungle and kill some rattlesnakes with a trowel.
    We'll break all the windows in the old Anderson place
    And steal a bunch of boysenberrys and smear 'em on your face.
    I'll get a dollar from my mama's purse
    And buy that skull and crossbones ring
    And you can wear it around your neck on an old piece of string.

    Then we'll spit on Ronnie Arnold, flip him the bird;
    Slash the tires on the school bus --- now don't say a word!
    I'll take a rusty nail and scratch your initials in my arm
    And I'll show you how to sneak up on the roof of the drugstore.

    Take the spokes from your wheelchair and a magpie's wings
    And I'll tie them to your shoulders and your feet.
    I'll steal a hacksaw from my dad
    And cut the braces off your legs
    And we'll bury them tonight out in the cornfield.

    Just put a church key in your pocket,
    We'll hop that freight train in the hall.
    We'll slide all the way down the drain
    To New Orleans in the fall.”




    “The Ocean Doesn't Want Me”, from
    Bone Machine, 1992 (Island)


    One of the most minimalist songs on this album, it shows Waits at his most esoteric, with a semi-return to the slow percussive beats of some of the songs on Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs, with strange little sounds in the background, and Waits's vocal somewhat mechanised and more in a spoken word style of singing than anything. It's a short song, less than two minutes long, and seems to concern someone who's preparing to commit suicide but hasn't quite made up his mind, or built up the courage to perform the act. He keeps blaming the ocean (in which, no doubt, he plans to drown), saying it isn't ready for him, but remarks he'll be back tomorrow.

    ”The ocean doesn't want me today,
    But I'll be back tomorrow to play.
    And the strangles will take me
    Down deep in their brine.
    The mischievous braingels;
    Down into the endless blue wine.
    I'll open my head and let out:
    All of my time.
    I'd love to go drowning
    And to stay and to stay,
    But the ocean doesn't want me today.

    I'll go in up to here:
    It can't possibly hurt.
    All they will find is my beer and my shirt.
    A rip tide is raging,
    And the life guard is away.
    But the ocean doesn't want me today.
    The ocean doesn't want me today.”
    Come away, human child to the waters and the wild
    With a faery hand in hand.
    For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand. - WB Yeats "The Stolen Child"

    I drink to forget, but I never forget to drink.

    "If the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today
    He'd be gunned down cold by the CIA" - The The, "Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)" - Mind Bomb, 1989


    The most destructive force on the planet is not nukes or global warming...it is the human ego. - Ralph Rotten

  5. #15
    Member Amnesiac's Avatar
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    I love, "The Piano Has Been Drinking," and, "You Can Never Hold Back Spring." Two of my very favorites. He had a role in the movie, "Rumble Fish," too. (Book by S.E. Hinton)

  6. #16
    Offline: Depressed Trollheart's Avatar
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    And don't forget his animated turn in Shrek with "Little Drop of Poison"... to say nothing of his acting, er, prowess as Renfield in Bram Stoker's Dracula!
    Come away, human child to the waters and the wild
    With a faery hand in hand.
    For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand. - WB Yeats "The Stolen Child"

    I drink to forget, but I never forget to drink.

    "If the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today
    He'd be gunned down cold by the CIA" - The The, "Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)" - Mind Bomb, 1989


    The most destructive force on the planet is not nukes or global warming...it is the human ego. - Ralph Rotten

  7. #17
    Offline: Depressed Trollheart's Avatar
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    While normally I would tend not to include movie soundtracks in discographies, this time there are a few reasons for breaking that rule. First off, you're usually talking about an instrumental-only affair, with possibly music from other artistes on it. Second, the music is usually not all written by the artist in question and has little relevance to their own collection. None of these apply to the next album. Waits wrote all the songs and music for it, and not only that, it was while recording this album that he was to meet the love of his life, future wife and songwriting partner, Kathleen Brennan. Add to that the fact that he collaborates with Crystal Gayle on some of the tracks (she is solo on some, but even then he's writing the music and lyrics) and you really have an album you can't overlook.

    So I won't.


    “One from the Heart” Original Soundtrack --- 1982

    Written for a movie that's far less sublime than its music is, “One from the Heart” (the movie) is a massive disappointment, the more surprising when you consider that the great Francis Ford Coppola himself directs it. But at its heart (hah!) it's an awkward story of the love between two people and the trials they go through. Having loved this album, and wanting to hear how it translated within the movie, I watched it and was left with a feeling of an hour and a half wasted: the movie was formulaic drivel basically, but the music: ah, that's something else entirely. Step this way, my friend.

    There's a typical Waits piano line opening the album, kind of reminds me of “I Never Talk to Strangers”, then Waits's voice is low and hoarse, counterpointed by the clear tones of Crystal Gayle, and they duet beautifully on the last line, before the brass section takes the song, following some nice strings conducted by the almost by now permanent fixture Bob Alcivar, as we move into a sleazy blues tune with jazz overtones for the second part of the introduction, “The Wages of Love”, Waits and Gayle again duetting. Lyrically it's a dark song as Gayle sings "Firmly believe love was designed/ To exploit and deceive” and it moves slowly along with sax and trumpet and soft percussion, into the first solo song from Crystal Gayle.

    It's only a short one, just over two minutes, but it's a beautiful ode to love lost as she sings “Is There Any Way Out of This Dream?” with Waits on the piano, her soulful voice lighting up the composition. Although Waits does not sing on this you can hear his songwriting genius in lines like ”Let's take a hammer to it/ There's no glamour in it” and ”Summer is dragging its feet/ I feel so incomplete.” There's also some a lovely tenor sax solo taking the song into its conclusion. Then Gayle remains behind the mike but is joined by Waits for a classic as he argues the benefits of his lifestyle and she snaps at his untidiness in “Picking Up After You”. Waits at his most sleazy is brilliant in this, as he groans ”Looks like you spent the night in a trench” and she sneers back ”The roses are dead/ And the violets are too.”

    It's a slow, jazzy number with blues overtones, driven on sprinkly piano and trumpet, the two singers doing a great job communicating the idea of a couple really sick of the worst side of each other, and ready to split up. Gayle then takes the next song solo, for the slow, moody “Old Boyfriends”, with a country lilt and again piano backed, electric piano I think or maybe celeste, not sure. You can almost hear the cracks appearing in her heart as she sings ”They look you up/ When they're in town/ To see if they can / Still burn you down” while there's some lovely reflective electric guitar sliding in and out of the tune too. But the album's highlight comes next, and it's Waits in his best Blue Valentine mood, in fact this song could have been on that album. “Broken Bicycles” draws a great but not obvious parallel between a lover and a bicycle rusting in a garden yard. ”Broken bicycles” sings Waits, ”Old busted chains/ Rusted handlebars out in the rain/ Somebody must have an orphanage for/ These things that nobody wants anymore.” Superb.



    The song is driven on an almost classical piano line, slow and evocative with Waits's vocal soft and close to muttered, a great sadness hanging around it as he sighs ”Summer is gone/ But my love will remain/ Like old broken bicycles/ Out in the rain.” An absolutely beautiful song, a masterpiece both of unexpected imagery and heart-wrenching emotion, and definitely the highlight of this album for me. Also the point at which, rather unfortunately, it begins for me to dip.

    “I Beg Your Pardon” is another piano ballad, based I feel something along the lines of “Cinny's Waltz” with a certain cinematic feel to it, Alcivar's strings really adding another layer to it as Waits sings ”You are the landscape of my dreams” but it's when “Little Boy Blue” begins that I start to lose a little interest and from here on it's much lower par than it should have been. I have nothing but good things to say about the first half of the album, but with a few exceptions it's hard to find much complimentary to say about the closing half. I guess you could make the case that the first half is the “old “ Tom Waits we heard on albums like Closing Time, Foreign Affairs and Blue Valentine, whereas what surfaces on the second half is a little more experimental, a bit more avant-garde jazz, the kind of ideas he would bring into his next proper album.

    He met Kathleen during the recording of this album, but I don't know if she helped him or gave him any ideas on it; if so then you could possibly attribute the sudden change here to her influence. With a bouncy, finger-clickin' bass line that harks a little back to “Romeo is Bleeding”, “Little Boy Blue” is driven on hard-edged organ from Ronnie Barron, with Waits's vocal again low-key, the sort of song a man sings with his collar turned up and with his hat down over his eyes. His penchant for plundering nursery rhyme really comes into its own here as he sings ”Little Boy Blue/ Come blow your horn/ Dish ran away with the spoon” and later sings of Bo Peep and other childhood favourites. The song ends on a rather frenetic organ solo and piles into “Instrumental Montage (The Tango/Circus Girl)” with the first part being, not surprisingly given the title, a tango on the piano with some wild saxophone being added by the returning Gene Cipriano, a soft little piano run then taking it into a carnival waltz which would later resurface on Frank's Wild Years, five years later.

    “You Can't Unring a Bell” is backed by some pretty amazing thunderous percussion and some spooky guitar, with Waits often speaking the lyric like a monologue, while Crystal Gayle returns to accompany him on what is essentially the title track . I feel the melody on “This One's from the Heart” sails very close to that from “Picking Up After You”, and perhaps that's intentional, as it's the reconciliation song which mirrors the trouble in that song, or at least the hope that it can be sorted out. Gayle is wonderful on this, and it's not hard to see why she is regarded as one of country's first ladies. I'm not sure what the link is or how they came to be working together, but it's a pity this was the only time they did, as they really are one hell of a team. Perhaps Kathleen put her foot down after they were married?

    Like much on this album, it's a slow, romantic, moody ballad, and it's followed by another, the last vocal track, which oddly enough, but given the conclusion of the film, is sung by Gayle solo as she forgives her lover and asks to be reunited with him in “Take Me Home”. It's a short song, just over a minute and a half, and with a very simple lyric: ”Take me home/ You silly boy/ Cos I'm still in love/ With you.” We end then on a glockenspiel instrumental as “Presents” revisits the melody of the previous song, a mere minute of music but quite effective. Interesting point for you trivia fans: it's played by Joe Porcaro, father of Toto brothers Jeff, Mike and Steve. Nice low-key ending, though with all respect to Joe, I'm not entirely sure how essential it was to run the same melody twice.

    TRACKLISTING

    1. Opening Montage (Tom's Piano Intro/Once Upon a Town/The Wages of Love)
    2. Is There Any Way Out of This Dream?
    3. Picking Up After You
    4. Old Boyfriends
    5. Broken Bicycles
    6. I Beg Your Pardon
    7. Instrumental Montage (The Tango/Circus Girl)
    8. Little Boy Blue
    9. You Can't Unring a Bell
    10. This One's from the Heart
    11. Take Me Home
    12. Presents

    As film soundtracks go, this is one of the best I've heard that has been all composed by the one musician, and which is not all instrumental. It's hard to capture the feel of a movie like this, and even though “One from the Heart” is, as I recall, a very basic and boring movie with a predictable ending, perhaps that's a good reason for Waits to have scored it. Not that it's predictable, but that it deals at its heart with human relationships and the darker side of emotions, and shows that the world is not a fairytale. There are songs here which deserve to go down as Waits classics, and you don't often say that about film soundtracks, or I don't anyway.

    In addition, being the backdrop for that fateful meeting with the woman he would eventually marry and who would become his muse for, well, the rest of his life, this album holds a special place in the discography of Tom Waits. It may not be perfect, and it may be the soundtrack to a film I would advise nobody to watch, but it truly does in fact live up to its name. It's also a great chance to see Waits duet, which happens so rarely, and sure if you're a fan of Crystal Gayle (and who isn't) then there's something for you here too.
    Come away, human child to the waters and the wild
    With a faery hand in hand.
    For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand. - WB Yeats "The Stolen Child"

    I drink to forget, but I never forget to drink.

    "If the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today
    He'd be gunned down cold by the CIA" - The The, "Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)" - Mind Bomb, 1989


    The most destructive force on the planet is not nukes or global warming...it is the human ego. - Ralph Rotten

  8. #18
    Offline: Depressed Trollheart's Avatar
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    If you thought, at this point, that you knew and had a fairly decent handle on the music of Tom Waits, well what happened next should have shown you the danger of adding up immature roosters before they have broken out of the shell. Although the next album Waits would release had some recognisable influences yet from his previous body of work, this is pretty much where he entered the studio more as a scientist than a musician, if you like. That's a very bad analogy, but what I mean is that from here on in Waits experimented more with his music. He started trying out odd rhythms, strange singing patterns, weird lyrics and brought in instruments he had previously never used, like shaker, African talking drum, bagpipes and glass harmonica. In short, it was a total seachange for the man, and must have taken his fans by surprise when it originally hit.

    The album also marks the end of a long partnership, as Waits decided to dispense with the services of producer Bones Howe, taking the controls of the mixing desk and sitting in the director's chair himself, solidifying his grip over his music. This is the first album he self-produced, and once he got the hang of and the taste for it, there was no going back. Although he had by this time met Kathleen Brennan, and her tastes would inform much of his music from here on in, she has no actual input into this album and only co-wrote one song on the next one. Waits had, and has, always been a man to jealously guard the creation of his music, treating it like his baby, as he would later reveal on the collection of unused songs released on triple CD in 2006. But here is where you can see the effects of Captain Beefheart (apparently) to whose music Brennan introduced him, and which obviously impacted upon him strongly.


    Swordfishtrombones
    --- 1983 (Island)


    It had been three years since Waits had been in the studio to record his own music, and it certainly shows, in a fresh, powerful, often disturbing and also beautiful collection of songs that run the gamut from zany to heartbreakingly sad. As if making a conscious decision to be “less mainstream”, although Waits wouldn't know the mainstream if he fell into it and drowned, the album kicks off with “Underground”, a stomping, swaggering almost muted sound which sounds like trombone or tuba but seems like it may be a bass marimba. Whatever, it's not only the music that is weirdly out of the ordinary here: Waits growls the vocal with a kind of almost barking cadence, cutting off the ends of sentences sharply, like someone saying “I – told – you – once...” The song itself seems to be about maybe the city after dark, as he sings ”They're alive, they're awake/ While the rest of the world is asleep” and may refer back to the many unfortunate and pathetic characters who people albums such as The Heart of Saturday Night and Small Change. It may not; it's a strange song.

    Things get weirder then with “Shore Leave”, percussion provided by Waits hitting a chair off the floor, seriously, and a strange kind of moaning, screeching sound with timpani and other odd instruments meshing with guitar, marimba and trombone, much of the vocal spoken sotto-voce by Waits. It details the exploits of a sailor, far from home, as he tries to fill up the time before he has to go back to his ship. The chorus is the only sung part, in a sort of hoarse whisper. ”I was pacing myself” he says [/i]”Tryin' to make it all last/ Tryin' to squeeze all the life/ Out of a lousy two day pass.”[/i] It's followed by an instrumental as Waits gets behind the Hammond and racks out a spooky, chilling carnival-like tune that goes by the name of “Dave the Butcher”, then, being Waits, he changes tack completely with one of his soft aching ballads as he pays tribute to the town in which Kathleen was born, “Johnsburg, Illinois.”

    It's a pained, emotional vocal which has him almost hoarse with quiet passion, and accompanied only by piano, which he plays himself, and bass. It's a very short song, only a minute and a half, but the amount of love that's poured into its run is truly exceptional. The basic melody would later be revisited in part on another song further along on the album. Then, as if to say BOO! He launches into “Sixteen Shells from a Thirty-ought-six”, with heavy, choppy electric guitar and thumping percussion, the vocal raw and ragged, the song structure virtually nonexistent, just verse following verse. There's a great beat to it though, lots of percussion and bells. One thing that doesn't, and probably never will change in Waits's music though is the characters who populate it, and they're all here, from the shore leavetaking sailor to the gin-soaked boy in the song of the same name and the dead soldier in “Soldier's Things”, not to mention Frank making a pre-appearance before the album which would bear his name in “Frank's Wild Years”. Up next though is a slow, morose ballad driven on piano with a strained, almost defeated vocal in “Town with No Cheer”. This is also the first time Waits uses bagpipes, through they're only used in the short intro.

    This album also marks the end of the “short” Waits albums, as I think I mentioned previously. With fifteen tracks, this is a far cry from any of his older albums, most of which had seven or eight tracks. This is a format he would continue throughout his career; whether it was just that he was writing more and wanted to use more, or he wanted to give better value to his fans, or even that he didn't even realise he was doing it, from this on in Waits albums would always give great bang for buck, few less than twelve tracks in length. There's a bit of a return to the old form for “In the Neighborhood”, a song of claustrophobia and hopelessness, a feeling of being trapped in a one-horse town (a theme Waits used quite a lot). The tone is doleful, almost funereal as he utilises a lot of trombone and slow percussion, baritone horn and organ.

    Another instrumental in “Just Another Sucker on the Vine”, which he plays almost entirely solo on the harmonium, with some assistance from trumpet and then we're into “Frank's Wild Years”, which I mentioned already. Carried on the somewhat madcap organ of Ronnie Barron, it features Waits basically talking the lyric, almost in a bored monotone as he tells the story of Frank who, fed up with his life, burns his house to the ground and heads off for a new life. This would, as I've intimated, lead to a whole album based on a play Waits would write with Kathleen. It, and all the succeeding tracks, are short, some less than three minutes long, and the next one up is the title, with just the “s” removed. “Swordfishtrombone” runs on a marimba and conga rhythm, with nothing else but bass supporting the tune, while the much shorter “Down, Down, Down” has the full band, and is a faster, more frenetic affair with a jazzy, syncopated beat and Waits returning to the somewhat harsher vocal of “Sixteen Shells”.



    After that we slow everything down for another piano ballad, and again I've featured “Soldier's Things” in detail before, so I'll just say it's the gut-wrenching aftermath of a funeral, as the soldier's widow (we assume) tries to make some cash by selling off his personal effects. It's totally heartbreaking, and if you want to read more about it check back a few posts; it’s not hard to find. It has, as I mentioned above, something of the melody of "Johnsburg, Illinois", in it. That leaves us with three tracks to go, all short, and “Gin Soaked Boy” comes a little towards the idea of “Sixteen Shells” again with a hard grinding guitar and thumping percussion, another growled vocal with a lot of power in it, while “Trouble's Braids” recalls the basic rhythm of “Red Shoes by the Drugstore” with another muttered vocal and virtually no instruments bar drums and bass. We end then on one more instrumental, with no less than four glass harmonicas as “Rainbirds” ends a pretty stunning album.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Underground
    2. Shore Leave
    3. Dave the Butcher
    4. Johnsburg, Illinois
    5. Sixteen Shells from a Thirty-ought-six
    6. Town with No Cheer
    7. In the Neighborhood
    8. Just Another Sucker on the Vine
    9. Frank's Wild Years
    10. Swordfishtrombone
    11. Down, Down, Down
    12. Soldier's Things
    13. Gin Soaked Boy
    14. Trouble's Braids
    15. Rainbirds

    The variety on this album is pretty staggering, even given the sort of thing Waits had given us up to now. This is a man almost reborn, stretching his musical muscles and testing the limits of his talent and creativity. There aren't too many other artists who would get away with some of the tracks here and not lose some of their fans, or at least cause some puzzled looks. But at this point we've kind of learned to expect the unexpected with Tom Waits, and this is just the beginning. Next time out he would venture further into the unknown, like a man on a spacewalk who suddenly considers letting go and just floating into the vast mystery of space, taking us all with him.
    Come away, human child to the waters and the wild
    With a faery hand in hand.
    For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand. - WB Yeats "The Stolen Child"

    I drink to forget, but I never forget to drink.

    "If the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today
    He'd be gunned down cold by the CIA" - The The, "Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)" - Mind Bomb, 1989


    The most destructive force on the planet is not nukes or global warming...it is the human ego. - Ralph Rotten

  9. #19
    Offline: Depressed Trollheart's Avatar
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    Having branched out on the previous album Waits continued to explore the limits of his music, almost inventing instruments and shunning the popular digital electronic recording process. As he said himself, “If I want a particular sound I'd rather get it by going into the bathroom and hitting the door really hard with a piece of two by four.” No samples for our Tom! Although he did, technically, use samples in the recording of this, his eighth album, when he used an old-style cassette recorder to capture the sounds of the street --- traffic, people walking, dogs barking etc --- in order to infuse this new album with a feeling of being right down there among the people. His second album without Bones Howe and the continuation, in many ways, of Swordfishtrombones, this album is, if possible, even weirder and in places even more beautiful.

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    Rain Dogs --- 1985 (Island)

    A double album, this would be, apart from Nighthawks at the Diner, Waits's longest yet, clocking in at almost fifty-four minutes and with a total of nineteen tracks. He explores many different genres in it, and it opens with a boppy cousin of “Underground” melding with “Shore Leave” as “Singapore” kicks right out of the traps. Waits's vocal is again that hoarse, ragged whisper we've started to become used to, the song driven on thick double bass and powerful percussion. There are some great lines in it, such as ”In the land of the blind/ The one-eyed man is king” and ”Every witness turns to steam/ They all become Italian dreams.” Next it's a slow, almost funereal tune with timpani and miramba in “Clap Hands”, Waits more restrained on the vocal here, then it's a polka as he brings in accordion for “Cemetery Polka”, with the hilarious line ”We must find out where the money is/ Get it now before he loses his mind!”

    Typical of Waits, of course, after all this madness and experimentation he's back to simple acoustic guitar for “Jockey Full of Bourbon”, percussion again playing a big part in the song, with a kind of muttered vocal from Waits before he comes alive for “Tango Till They're Sore”, one of the first songs of his I ever heard --- and I hated it --- but I can see his genius now. He sings like a man drunk, reeling all over the place as he sings ”Put my clarinet beneath your bed/ Till I get back in town”. The discordant piano from “The Piano Has Been Drinking” is back, as he weaves expertly in and out of the tune, fat trombone adding a real New Orleans touch, delivered by the perfectly-named Bob Funk. He kicks into full gear then for the manic “Big Black Mariah”, featuring guitar from the legendary Keith Richards. This melody and vocal style, at least the beginning, foreshadows the later “Earth Died Screaming” on his Bone Machine album. There's a lot of blues and swing in this, and it rocks along nicely.

    Things slow down then for a few tracks, as “Diamonds and Gold” is a low-key short track with banjo from Robert Musso, the return of the marimbas and a sort of almost slurred vocal, tracing the basic melody of “Hushabye Mountain” before Waits interprets the folk standard “Tom Dooley” in his own inimitable way as “Hang Down Your Head” is his first collaboration with his wife, Kathleen Brennan. It actually has a nice country-ish electric guitar from Marc Ribot and pump organ from Waits himself. Good solo from Ribot, then we're into one of the standouts with “Time”, the first real ballad on the album. Again it's a low-key, almost disinterested vocal from Waits, lovely sad accordion as William Shimmel reprises his role from “Cemetery Polka”, soft strummed guitar from Waits.



    Shimmel remains and opens the title track, which is then taken by Ribot with some uptempo guitar, mournful trombone from Funk and those marimbas again. The first of two instrumentals follows as the quite frenetic “Midtown” is driven by the Uptown Horns with a kind of sixties cop-show theme, dashing all over the place and bringing us into another standout, “9th and Hennepin”. Again I've written extensively about this song, but in case you haven't read that, it's a spoken word piece backed by clarinet, marimba and piano. Some incredible lines in the lyric: ”I'm lost in the window/ I hide in the stairway/ And I hang in the curtain/ And I sleep in your hat.” Banjo and percussion drive “Gun Street Girl”, very folk-oriented; one of the lines is ”Bangin' on a table/ With an old tin cup” and sure knowing Waits, maybe they are!

    “Union Square” hits the tempo back up then, with a raw, manic vocal from Waits in a sort of jazzy rocker, Keith Richards making another appearance, then after that Waits turns his attention to country with his first pure country song, “Blind Love”, and it could certainly hold its own among the likes of Haggard and Nelson. More guitar from Richards, who also adds backing vocals to this gem, and some superb violin from Ross Levinson. We're back then in Blue Valentine territory for “Walking Spanish”, and a song made famous by Rod Stewart is another standout in “Downtown Train”. If you've only heard Rod's version then you need to hear the original. That's all I'll say.

    The second, and final instrumental is barely a minute long and features just harmonium, sax and drums as “Bride of Rain Dog” reprises some of the melody of the title track, messed about in the lovingly chaotic way Waits loves to do, then we end on “Anywhere I Lay My Head”, as the Uptown Horns return to finish us off on a gospel-inspired hunk of craziness as Waits really goes for it on the vocal. Testify, brother! Testify!

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Singapore
    2. Clap Hands
    3. Cemetery Polka
    4. Jockey Full of Bourbon
    5. Tango Till They're Sore
    6. Big Black Mariah
    7. Diamonds and Gold
    8. Hang Down Your Head
    9. Time
    10. Rain Dogs
    11. Midtown
    12. 9th and Hennepin
    13. Gun Street Girl
    14. Union Square
    15. Blind Love
    16. Walking Spanish
    17. Downtown Train
    18. Bride of Rain Dog
    19. Anywhere I Lay My Head

    Rarely have I listened to an album with so many different styles, genres and ideas mixed together which still managed to be a cohesive whole and come out triumphantly on top. With this album, once and for all Waits proved that he could not be boxed, labelled, categorised or indeed equalled. A man with whom, quite literally, you did not know what was coming next, he would forever surprise, confound and delight. With almost impish glee, he would change his style, then change it back, do something new, look back to his past, subvert genres and even invent new ones as he continued his crusade to be something utterly different, indefinable and absolutely magnificent.

    At this point, it seemed the time might have arrived to declare a new genre of music: Tom Waits.
    Come away, human child to the waters and the wild
    With a faery hand in hand.
    For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand. - WB Yeats "The Stolen Child"

    I drink to forget, but I never forget to drink.

    "If the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today
    He'd be gunned down cold by the CIA" - The The, "Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)" - Mind Bomb, 1989


    The most destructive force on the planet is not nukes or global warming...it is the human ego. - Ralph Rotten

  10. #20
    Offline: Depressed Trollheart's Avatar
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    Would anyone else title an album after a track from a previous one, and not include that track, or any reference back to it? Well, probably not. But then, this is just another example of Waits not so much breaking the rules as gleefully pounding them with a sledgehammer, in the process taping the sound to be used as another effect on his album. Two years after the herculean Rain Dogs completed, he was back in the studio and this time he had help. New wife Kathleen Brennan was beginning to have a little more of an input on her maverick husband's music now, arranging all the vocals on the new album and also helping to write three of the songs.

    Originally conceived as a play, and premiered in Chicago more than a year before the release of the album, this next recording would continue Waits's foray into the world of experimental music, and lead to him playing even stranger instruments, such as the Optigan, Farfisa and, um, rooster? It would also feature the only collaborations in songwriting he had allowed since Bob Alcivar wrote the music for “Potter's Field” back in '77 on Foreign Affairs, and though he would count the co-writers he worked with on the fingers of one hand, Kathleen would become more and more involved in writing songs with him, until with 1992's Bone Machine they would share equal songwriting credits; Waits would finally have someone who knew his music as well as he did, and who could be his muse, and perhaps vice versa.
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    Franks Wild Years --- 1987 (Island)

    If you've been following my writings on his discography, you'll remember that the title of this album, as mentioned above, comes from a song off Swordfishtrombones, about a guy who finally snaps under the pressure of suburban living, burns down his house and drives off in the direction of Hollywood (Frank Goes To Hollywood?) in search of a new life. Although the album is subtitled “Un operachi romantico in two acts”, and was, as mentioned, based on the play of the same name, oddly enough it does not appear to be a concept album. At the same time, there does appear to be a general thread of motifs running through the songs: themes like loneliness, depression, failure, regret all crop up and the songs could to a degree be said to be linked to form a loose story.

    “Hang on St. Christopher”, which kicks the album off, can certainly be seen as following on directly from the song on the '83 album, as Frank, driving north on the Hollywood Freeway, goes over in his mind the actions of the last few hours. Whether he regrets them or not is unknown, but it seems he is determined to put his past life behind him as he joins the great swell of humanity heading down the highway. With a down-and-dirty brass section backing him, Waits sings the vocal in a sort of mechanised style, as if he were talking on a really old radio or microphone. There's something of a shuffle in the rhythm and again it's a song with no real verse or chorus, just all the lines sung in the same melody. “Straight to the Top (Rhumba)” is indeed just that, backed by brass and double bass with congas going and Waits with another strained, hoarse vocal which seems somehow divorced from the melody and yet works well. Glockenspiel on “Blow Wind Blow” and pump organ recalls “Tango Till They're Sore” in a slower, moodier vein, with some lonely horn blowing. Waits changes his vocal style halfway through here, affecting a kind of operatic tenor, while ”Dancing at the slaughterhouse” recalls a line from “Gun Street Girl”.

    I have to admit, this is not one of my favourite Waits albums. After Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs I was pretty disappointed with this one, but that's just me. He changes his voice again for “Temptation”, a slowish, almost tangolike piece driven by bass, maraccas and congas, with some freaky guitar from the returning Marc Ribot. We're back in familiar territory for a moment then as one of two versions of “Innocent When You Dream” takes us back to the bar, with Waits a slurring drunk singing ”The bats are in the belfry/ The dew is on the moor” and the song moves in a sort of slow waltz carnival rhythm, a real drinking song. Some nice violin from Ralph Carney and accordion maestro William Schimmel takes the seat behind the piano. One of the better songs on the album, certainly.

    Schimmel straps back on his squeezebox for “I'll be Gone”, and there's that rooster I spoke of, crowing at the very start. It's one of those madcap songs Waits loves so much, bopping along on a bouncy bass line as he sings gleefully ”I drink a thousand shipwrecks/ Tonight I steal your paychecks”. By contrast, “Yesterday is Here” plods along in a slow, measured western-style rhythm, bass and guitar driving the tune and Waits returning to what could be called a normal vocal for him, a lot of echo on it giving it a very sombre feel. A screechy baritone horn runs “Please Wake Me Up” in as the vocal comes through almost unnoticed, a slow, Beatley tune with elements of Sinatra and old twenties Vaudeville there too, with another carnival organ outro before a short accordion piece prefaces one of the better tracks on the album, one of my favourites. “More Than Rain” is like a Waits tune of old, and could have been on Blue Valentine or Heartattack and Vine.



    Featuring an accordion intro that really recalls the album cover, it moves along on again a sort of slow carnival rhythm, with bells, bass and of course the accordion and horn. Great lines like ”None of our pockets are lined with gold/ There are no dead presidents we can fold” really make the song. Fans of “The Wire” will be familiar with “Way Down in the Hole”, which was the theme for that show all through its run, though performed by various different artistes each season. Waits screeches the vocal in a sort of semi-gospel tone allied to a lowdown funk melody driven on Ralph Carney's soulful sax as well as Ribot's guitar. Echoes of the melody from “Hang on St. Christopher” coming through here, while a second version of “Straight to the Top”, subtitled “Vegas”, gives us a different interpretation of the second track, with a very Sinatraesque turn. Cocktail piano from Schimmel and super little bass lines from Greg Cohen as well as Carney's sax really put you in the front row of a Vegas nightclub as Waits sings, with obvious relish in the irony, ”I can't let Mister Sorrow/ Drag ol' Frankie down!”

    It kind of ends on a bit of a confused mess though, like a reverse tune-up, and segues directly into the again Sinatra/Armstrong-like “I'll take New York”, with some very dissonant organ and a melody that is cheekily very close to that of Frankie's classic, then a Rain Dogs style infuses “Telephone Call from Istanbul” with some picked guitar and banjo from Ribot. Good advice from Waits: ”Never trust a man in a blue trenchcoat/ Never drive a car when you're dead!” Vocally this is probably closest to “Heartattack and Vine” or maybe “Mister Siegal”, but musically I can hear the likes of “Big Black Mariah” and indeed “Rain Dogs” itself.

    An almost fifties rock-and-roll fusing with country/folk takes us into the “Cold cold Ground”, with a fine performance by David Hidalgo on the accordion and some hypnotic bass from Larry Taylor, while there's a whole lot of slow gospel in “Train Song”, almost coming back to the Small Change era. That would have been a great ending, with the tagline ”It was a train that took me away from here/ But a train can't bring me home” but Waits decided to throw another version of a song that is already on the album into the mix, and for my money the alternative version of “Innocent When You Dream” (it's not a bonus track; this is part of the album) is completely superfluous. I liked the original but this is just silly. A sad end to an album that could be a lot better.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Hang on St. Christopher
    2. Straight to the Top (Rhumba)
    3. Blow Wind Blow
    4. Temptation
    5. Innocent When You Dream (Barroom)
    6. I'll be Gone
    7. Yesterday is Here
    8. Please Wake Me Up
    9. Frank's Theme
    10. More Than Rain
    11. Way Down in the Hole
    12. Straight to the Top (Vegas)
    13. I'll take New York
    14. Telephone Call from Istanbul
    15. Cold Cold Ground
    16. TrainSsong
    17. Innocent When You Dream (Seventy-eight)

    There are a lot of things to recommend this album, but somehow it just doesn't do it for me. After colossi like Rain Dogs and Swordfishtrombones I was just expecting more, and whereas normally I might --- might --- point to one, maybe two tracks on a Waits album I'm not totally into, here I can easily count off at least six, and on an album with seventeen tracks overall that ain't good. I've listened to this a few times, not as many as other Waits albums, and when I make playlists it's one I take very few tracks from. It's not that I think it's a bad album, but it fails to give me the vibe I've got from every single one of his recordings prior, and to be completely honest, from here on in, with a few exceptions, I found much of his material quite inaccessible and disappointing. Not saying I hated every album from here, but it does make Rain Dogs for me a high watermark, leaving everything that came after --- as I say, with a few notable exceptions --- just slightly lacking.

    Mind you, as I review them now I may start appreciating them more. Here's hoping. But for me anyway, Franks Wild Years just fails to reach the high standard Waits had set himself for, at this point, fourteen years, and the next twenty-plus would continue to test my faith in the man, occasionally proving it, more often than not though unfortunately straining it to often breaking point. I think the real problem with Waits, for me at any rate, is the expectation. Every album up to this has been top-drawer, and once you slip even slightly it really shows. This is a good album, even a very good album, but at this stage I'm a Waits purist and I want great, not good.
    Come away, human child to the waters and the wild
    With a faery hand in hand.
    For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand. - WB Yeats "The Stolen Child"

    I drink to forget, but I never forget to drink.

    "If the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today
    He'd be gunned down cold by the CIA" - The The, "Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)" - Mind Bomb, 1989


    The most destructive force on the planet is not nukes or global warming...it is the human ego. - Ralph Rotten

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