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Old 04-23-2010, 12:52 PM   #1 (permalink)
killedmyraindog
 
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Default Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis; A Tom Waits review


As many of you are probably aware, I'm something of a Tom Waits fan. A review of his works is something I've always wanted to do, but as a Mod, MB was starting to feel like work. Now that I've stepped away from the reigns, I feel unrestricted to write, and not worry about what international spam unit is here crowding up the forums with bull****.

I try to make my first post on each of these Discography reviews my experience with the artists. This is my story.


Sometimes, something will happen in your life that has so many eerie coincidences surrounding it that you believe the universe is telling you that you must do it, that this is your fate. My running across the greatness of Tom Waits was something like a negative image of that phenomenon.

I'd known of him, off in the peripheral of music. I'd seen a photo of him once and thought to myself he looked like the love child of James Hetfield [Metallica] and an orangutan. But it wasn't until my father, who spend his life in a Corrections Officer uniform, or ripped up, paint stained jeans, brought home an issue of GQ. I didn't know where he got it, but I picked it up because Chris Rock was on the cover. As it was, there was a lengthy interview with Tom Waits in that issue that would change my musical reality forever.

Because of its length I never intended to read it, but the imagine of him pounding what I recall being a calliope and a side bar of lyrics made me change my mind. I'll never forget the first thing to reach out and grab me...

Quote:
The captain is a one-armed dwarf
they're throwing dice along the wharf
in the land of the blind
the one-eyed man is king
Anyone, anyone who paints such a bizarre and savage landscape like that in one stanza can have one of my kidneys and a bi-weekly paycheck.

From there it was over and done with. I used whatever peer-to-peer software was the rage of the day and just scooped up the fastest downloads possible. I ended up with most of Mule Variations and went off and bought the record. From there, I would walk a million miles in the world of Tom Waits with all the circus freaks, and down-and-outs dotting the country-side; with every old-time fan, and shiney new novice to his collection.

Reviews are sometimes collaboratives with memories - These are my stories.

Last edited by TheBig3; 06-21-2010 at 08:01 PM.
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Old 04-23-2010, 12:52 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Reviews:

1. Blue Valentine

2. The Heart of Saturday Night

3. Heartattack & Vine

4. Blood Money

5. Bone Machine

6. Small Change

7. Mule Variations

Last edited by TheBig3; 08-08-2013 at 09:27 PM.
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Old 04-23-2010, 12:53 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Released September 1978
Recorded July 24-August 26, 1978 at Filmways/Heider Recording, Hollywood, CA
Genre Blues-Rock
Length 49:09
Label Asylum
Producer Bones Howe

Blue Valentine is, for most Tom Waits fans, a forgotten record. This has a lot to do with it being a transitional album between his early 70's "James Taylor-esque" sounds and his post-Europe Brothel singer style. But for my money, its one of the best.

The record doesn't stray far from his origins. The voice has changed but the blues and jazz have stuck around. The album opens with "Somewhere" from West Side Story and sets an odd pace for the album. It sounds very little like the rest of the album, but what it doesn't represent in musicality, it sets in plot.

Valentine is a dark romp through the lower west side; a way past bed-time story set in the immigration-tenements of New York: The strife of a poverty stricken life led to crime; the manic elation of those eye-of-the-storm good times that are wrung for ever drop of good times they'll yeild, and always, overjoyed or miserable, a persistent aura of caution that keeps every character in every song with one-eye over his shoulder.

For a forgotten album, this has some absolute knockouts on it. Whistlin' Past the Graveyard is so over-the-top and frenzied that even Wait's voice, which is notorious for putting off newcomers, won't deter your grandmother from sitting up in bed, asking who this is, and decrying modern music with that old quip "this is how music should be." A baseline/sax riff that gets the blood flowing, drums fills that will give you speeding tickets, Graveyard waits in the weeds, and pounces on you from the sleepy lead ins.

And as for narrative, few songs in the American canon can compared with Romeo is Bleeding, a greaser anthem that might be a better play than Grease itself (I know, I know, boo-hiss...whatever).

But for all its upbeat action, and gutter-celebrity intrigue, Blue Valentine is no exception to Wait's traditional chest-compressing heart breakers. Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis, another amazing narrative, is such a a heavy tale of human tragedy that I'd caution you from listening to it drunk unless you really want to cry alone at your computer. Christmas Card utilizes some well-remembered stories from the narrators past that remind us that nothings is so soul-crushing like the embraced joy of the truly downtrodden. A late-game plot twist only exacerbates the suffering until you can't take it anymore.

And to close it out, the title-track flexes its strength in minimalism - a couple of electric guitars dancing between blues and flamenco - tells a more traditional tale of heartache, but when when Waits holds the brush, its not only a story like you've never heard before, you feel like that story is you.

I'd normally close the review out here, but I just have to write about "A Little Bullet from a Pretty Blue Gun" which is one of my favorite songs ever. The band makes everything here. Cold, calculating, and the flourishes bring the characters to life in a way you only get the full effect of when you hear it with your eyes closed.

Blue Valentine is not without its missteps, some songs don't measure up the weight of the great ones here, and thats mostly because they don't exactly fit mood-wise, but all in all, for a forgotten album, its the one you really should try out first.

Must Hear:
1. Romeo is Bleeding
2. Whistlin' Past the Graveyard
3. A Little Bullet from a Pretty Blue Gun
4. Blue Valentine
5. Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis
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Old 04-23-2010, 01:29 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I've been waitying for someone to have a go with Tom Waits' discography in this way for a while, so I'm really looking forward to the rest of this thread. Can't wait to see your take on the Heart Of a Saturday Night as well, as that's an album that just completely transfixes me every time I hear it. Blue Valentine there's been one of my more recent acquisitions from the man's discography, so as such I haven't listened to it as much as a few other Waitsalbums I could name, but I remember loving it all the same. Great summary of the title track as well - there's just this hypnotic quality about that I can't really put my finger on myself.

Good start to the thread anyway. Looking forward to seeing how this one pans out.
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Old 05-04-2010, 05:38 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Tom Waits is amazing. I need to sift through more of his discography.
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Old 05-04-2010, 05:48 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I got into Tom Waits in a way that seemed like fate, myself. I had heard "Real Gone" from a friend, but didn't think much of it. His voice was unusual, which I like, but it just didn't click with me at the time. Then one day, I was pondering picking up another album to give him another chance. I wasn't too sure, but then Dracula came on TV (he played Renfield perfectly), then Coffee and Cigarettes came on (if you haven't seen the segment between Tom Waits and Iggy Pop it is hilarious), and then later in the day I read an article about him in some random music magazine. I took it as a sign that I should check him out again. I then picked up Rain Dogs and have been a fan ever since.

Basically that was a really long way of me saying I'm excited to read this thread. He has a pretty dense discography, and I am far from completing my collection. This looks like it should help a lot!
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Old 05-04-2010, 05:51 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Thanks! As BD requested it, I'll be doing Saturday Night tonight.
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Old 05-04-2010, 11:07 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I'm a little late on this, but I'm glad to see someone giving Blue Valentine the credit it's due. It's definitely one of my favorite albums of his, and it's easily one of his most underrated. Great thread, Brendan. Keep it up.
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Old 05-05-2010, 06:43 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SATCHMO View Post
I'm a little late on this, but I'm glad to see someone giving Blue Valentine the credit it's due. It's definitely one of my favorite albums of his, and it's easily one of his most underrated. Great thread, Brendan. Keep it up.
Thanks, Mark.

Edit: To better explain my fury.

Last edited by TheBig3; 05-05-2010 at 09:05 PM.
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Old 05-05-2010, 08:31 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Good idea for a thread ,looking forward to hearing your take on Heartattack And Vine.
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