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Re: [fearnwhiskey] Tom Waits

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  • carl wilson
    Steve s second CD would make a very beautiful sounding compilation. I could hear the sequence unroll as I read it. But yeah, there s that accessibility
    Message 1 of 8 , Aug 1, 2003
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      Steve's second CD would make a very beautiful sounding compilation. I
      could hear the sequence unroll as I read it.

      But yeah, there's that accessibility question - I've been wondering
      about that since I wrote my suggestions (which left off really
      accessible stuff like "Goin' Out West" and "I Don't Wanna Grow Up,").
      If you want to ease your friend into Waits albums, I'd say start with
      copies of "Heart of Saturday Night" the album, for the early years
      (or if they're more of a rock fan, maybe "Blue Valentines" -- as I
      said before, "Small Change" is my favourite of those years, but it's
      also deep into Waits' beat persona, which could be a turnoff), and
      either "Rain Dogs" or the "Beautiful Maladies" comp for the later
      years.

      I've noticed to my surprise in recent years that "Bone Machine" seems
      to be the best-known of his albums, or at least that's the impression
      I've gotten -- anyone agree or disagree? I think it's because it was
      the studio album that came out last before his long hiatus, so it had
      time to linger and get passed around longest before being displaced
      by something newer. I'm a little less fond of it because of the
      religious themes - "Jesus Gonna Be Here" and "Black Wings," etc. It's
      not that I'm anti-religious -- well, I am, but not as a musical theme
      -- but that it seemed to me Waits was drawing on that imagery without
      doing much with it, either pro or contra, and that it seemed a more
      commonplace well to draw on than he usually does. Waits has his own
      custom-made cliches, and he doesn't need anyone else's.

      It's possible, though, that this stems from the overall concern about
      mortality that runs through that disc, which is the most potent
      aspect of it. "Dirt In the Ground" is one of the more affecting songs
      about death I've ever heard:

      "What does it matter, a dream of love or a dream of lies
      We're all gonna be in the same place when we die
      Your spirit don't leave knowing your face or your name
      And the wind through your bones is all that remains
      And we're all gonna be
      We're all gonna be just dirt in the ground

      The quill from a buzzard, the blood writes the word
      I want to know, am I the sky or a bird?
      'Cause hell is boiling over and heaven is full
      We're chained to the world and we all gotta pull
      And we're all gonna be just dirt in the ground.... [etc]."

      The music to this tune draws on gospel, and when I say "draws" I mean
      with the effort of straining on a long rope to yank it note by note
      from the tradition, and when he gets to the tagline it suddenly
      twists in his hands, yanking back, and at that moment gospel becomes
      the blues (in his unique James Brown-influenced falsetto). It's such
      a gorgeous example of Waits' preternatural ability to sound
      completely instinctive while communicating a vast musicological
      awareness and self-consciousness at the same time. Unbelievable.

      carl w.
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