Re: [fearnwhiskey] Tom Waits
- 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
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.