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View Poll Results: Favourite Tom Waits album
Closing Time 0 0%
Nighthawks at the Diner 1 7.69%
Small Change 3 23.08%
Foreign Affairs 1 7.69%
Mule Variations 2 15.38%
Swordfishtrombones 1 7.69%
Rain Dogs 2 15.38%
Frank's Wild Years 0 0%
Bone Machine 3 23.08%
Other 0 0%
Voters: 13. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 3rd Sep 2008, 22:39   #21
bill
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Default Re: Tom Waits

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Originally Posted by John Self View Post
For example I don't find Swordfishtrombones accessible at all, even now. I appreciate it more than love it, at least half the time.
I actually agree with this. As a long-time, die-hard fan of Waits, I've always felt strangely cold towards this one, and it's generally regarded as his masterpiece. I also have nothing close to a natural ear for music (which makes it kind of odd that we both responded so immediately to Bone Machine), so I'm also stuck admiring it from afar. There are songs I really like on Swordfishtrombones -- the title song, "In the Neighborhood" -- but I almost never put the CD in the player.
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Old 3rd Sep 2008, 22:47   #22
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Default Re: Tom Waits

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I also have nothing close to a natural ear for music (which makes it kind of odd that we both responded so immediately to Bone Machine)
That's because it's so damn accessible!!!
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Old 3rd Sep 2008, 22:47   #23
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Default Re: Tom Waits

In "Frank's Wild Years", I also like the occasional throat clearings, and his generally disinterested tone. Yes, that one's funny, no question. For some reason, I also find the lisp he affects on "Jesus Gonna Be Here" to be pretty funny.

Other inexplicably funny songs are "The Black Rider" ("Hold on there, little sailor!"), "Lucky Day" ("There's nothin' like a campfire, and a can o' beans"), and "Eyeball Kid" ("I'll always be here/To protect you and to/Cut down on the glare")...

Chim-a-nee red.
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Old 4th Sep 2008, 7:52   #24
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Default Re: Tom Waits

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Originally Posted by bill View Post
I actually agree with this. As a long-time, die-hard fan of Waits, I've always felt strangely cold towards this one, and it's generally regarded as his masterpiece. There are songs I really like on Swordfishtrombones -- the title song, "In the Neighborhood" -- but I almost never put the CD in the player.
This is how I feel about Alice - good album, but very wintry. I rarely listen to it.

On Swordfishtrombones: 'Johnsburg Illinois' is my favourite love song, delivered in a slightly strained, off-key, moving voice; 'Just Another Sucker on the Vine' has beautifully nostalgic interplay between organ and brass; 'Trouble's Braids' is troubling and unique.

I just realised I forgot to include Blue Valentine on the list at the beginning of the thread . It's another hit-and-miss Beat-type album from the 70's, but the first song on it, a cover of 'Somewhere' from West Side Story, is probably the perfect starting place for any new Waits fans.
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Old 4th Sep 2008, 10:48   #25
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Default Re: Tom Waits

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Originally Posted by John Self View Post
Ah yes, those legal Russian download sites!

Off now to buy Small Change. On iTunes!
Oh yes, I meant 'legal'. If you use your credit card, it can't be wholly criminal, can it?

Have you listened to Small Change yet? Any first impressions?
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Old 4th Sep 2008, 11:33   #26
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Not really, just 'Tom Traubert's Blues' which I sort of knew already. It was playing in the background as I was typing last night, but then Desperate Housewives came on, and what can you do? Would have had it in my car today (had Swordfishtrombones yesterday) but cycled to work, and am not ready to brave two wheels with an iPod, amner style. Maybe tomorrow, when I'll be back in the car.
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Old 25th Sep 2008, 1:27   #27
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Watch out for the broken glass, put your shoes and socks on and come along with me...

I got into Tom Waits big time in the mid-90s. A friend started talking about him, and when I said that I'd only heard a few songs - "Downtown Train", "Jersey Girl", that lot - he gave me a beer, told me to sit down, and played me Blue Valentine. (Ironically, fanshawe, he skipped past "Somewhere" - to this day, my least favourite song on the album.) By "Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis" I had a lump in my throat. By "Whistling Past The Graveyard" I was laughing out loud. By "Blue Valentines" I was a life-long fan (so far, at least).

John Self compared him to Nick Cave in terms of a sense of humour, which is spot on - they're both absolutely hilarious when they want to - but they also share two other things:
  • a profound love of melodrama and tearjerkers that works because they're just that good that they almost never lay it on too thick. I can't help it, I know it's trite, but I literally get tears in my eyes every. Single. Time I hear Waits groan "Oh Jesus Christ, this goddamn rain..." at the end of "Ruby's Arms". It's just that he somehow manages to make his characters come alive in a few simple verses - it feels real, even though we know it's all...
  • showmanship. Yes, showmanship. Tom Waits is a private person who knows how to create a persona, to the point where I'm not sure if anyone except his family and friends know who he really is and just how much the character Tom Waits resembles the real man... which is theatrics, but do we really care? In a sense, I think it makes him more honest; he makes no claim to authenticity, we know it's an act, and as far as we're concerned he has no "other" identity outside the music to pull us out of the illusion. As he put it in "Whistling Past The Graveyard", "I never told the truth so I can never tell a lie." Tom Waits is one of the great American fiction writers.
However, I'm pretty sure Tom could kick Nick's ass if it should come to that. I mean, the man owns a chicken coop and wears a hat.

I just wish he'd tour more. I've seen him live once. It cost a fortune and it was worth every penny. He starts out by standing up in the middle of the audience with a bullhorn, climbs down towards the stage bellowing a medley of "Step Right Up" and "Lucky Day Ouverture" as the band get on stage, and then they stomp straight into "The Black Rider" as if it were the last days of Weimar. At some point he sends the band off and does the solo bit at the piano, with both "Invitation To The Blues" and "A Little Rain." I'm pretty sure it's the best concert I've ever been to.

So, favourite albums... Well, what makes it even trickier is that he's so darn even. While there are some albums that are not masterpieces, he's never really done an album that was downright poor. He even made great music in the mid-80s, for chrissakes. So I'm just going to grade 'em and for each album list two songs I wouldn't want to ever be without. (Yes, I've been pondering this post for a little while.)

Closing Time
I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You
Martha

The Heart of Saturday Night
Fumblin' With The Blues
The Ghosts Of Saturday Night (After Hours At Napoleone's Pizza House)

Nighthawks at the Diner
Warm Beer And Cold Women
Nighthawk Postcards (From Easy Street)

Small Change
Tom Traubert's Blues (Four Sheets To The Wind In Copenhagen)
Invitation To The Blues

Foreign Affairs
Burma Shave
Muriel

Blue Valentine
Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis
Blue Valentines

Heartattack and Vine
'Til The Money Runs Out
Ruby's Arms

One from the Heart
Picking Up After You
Broken Bicycles

Swordfishtrombones
16 Shells From A 30.6
Soldier's Things

Rain Dogs
Tango 'Til They're Sore
Time


Franks Wild Years
Innocent When You Dream
Telephone Call From Istanbul

Big Time
Strange Weather
Way Down In The Hole

Night on Earth
Good Old World (any two versions)

Bone Machine
Who Are You?
I Don't Wanna Grow Up

The Black Rider
The Black Rider
Lucky Day

Mule Variations
What's He Building?
Hold On

Blood Money
God's Away On Business
Misery Is The River Of The World

Alice
Tabletop Joe
Alice

Real Gone
Day After Tomorrow
Make It Rain

Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards
Walk Away
What Keeps Mankind Alive?

---

...and if you have a heart condition, please be warned.
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Old 25th Sep 2008, 15:30   #28
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Default Re: Tom Waits

Nice job, beer. That line from "Ruby's Arms" is one of my favorites, as well. And I agree, it works because he means it.

However, I've heard Waits claim that he would right fewer sentimental songs these days if his wife didn't remind him that he was so damn good at it. If not for her, I have a feeling we'd get a lot more albums like Real Gone. Judging by your rating, clearly that wouldn't bother you too much, and honestly, although that's far from my favorite album of his, it wouldn't bother me too much, either. But I'm grateful that we still get such a variety.
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Old 25th Sep 2008, 16:40   #29
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"Small Change" has to be my favourite Waits album. "Invitation to the Blues" is, I think, an all-time classic song. I feel privileged to have seen him live, at the Astoria in London in (I think?) about 1987. Though I'm not sure about the date, the concert itself was unforgettable. What a showman!
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Old 25th Sep 2008, 17:08   #30
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Default Re: Tom Waits

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However, I've heard Waits claim that he would right fewer sentimental songs these days if his wife didn't remind him that he was so damn good at it. If not for her, I have a feeling we'd get a lot more albums like Real Gone. Judging by your rating, clearly that wouldn't bother you too much, and honestly, although that's far from my favorite album of his, it wouldn't bother me too much, either. But I'm grateful that we still get such a variety.
Oh, absolutely - I think Real Gone is an excellent album, but I certainly wouldn't want every Waits album to sound like that. It's noisy, angry, and really unpleasant at times; it lacks much of the compassion that was still there under all the noise in Bone Machine, for instance. (I always thought it was a telling coincidence that one of the high points of Bone Machine claimed (with a bit of irony, but still) that "a little rain never hurt no one" whereas the best song on Real Gone commands God to "open up the heavens, make it rain.") It's the next logical step from the line "If there's one thing you can say about mankind - there's nothing kind about man" on Blood Money. I suppose it's as close as Tom has ever gotten to doing a "political" album; it's certainly apocalyptic. Blood and rust. Though again, this being Waits, there's always the question of just how much of it is "in character"...

But oh, to be a fly on the wall in the Waits household and see just how much they collaborate on the songwriting. I mean, even before they started crediting all songs to Waits/Brennan she helped write songs like "Big In Japan" and "Goin' Out West" (and everyone should check out that last clip, it's insane) which aren't exactly sweet ballads.
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