Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

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Trevor
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Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by Trevor » Wed Feb 24, 2010 1:01 am

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Hm. Well a stupendous salutations and evening to all you sapiens and homos out there. Please. Make yourself at home. Grab a chair up next to an old friend; grab yourself a nice cold glass of sunshine and light one up. Footwear is optional. This here thread – my first real one on this nice community of a forum – is done with one true intention – to honour a great artist; one of the damn finest artists to emerge from that twentieth century and come out alive; all along the way just treading that line separating the mainstream with the “oh-I-think-I've-heard-of-him-before”. Man's tackled genres of rock, jazz, blues, and created many more. Hell. Leave the word 'genre' out of his line of work. It'll serve no good. The music of Tom Waits is like none other; and will forever will be that of none other. It moves. It grooves. It soothes. Gets you through the rough times; a chum just when you need one. It paints vivid images. Those created by the mind of a true one-of-a-kind; a post beat spirit mixed with ambition, amusing anecdotes, and maybe just a little too much to drink. Will this thread be filled with improvised, half-assed faux-Waits articles and musings? Of course not. So don't worry. This is to celebrate arguably the most imaginative and distinctive songwriter who's name isn't Bob Dylan. But hey. At least Waits never made an Empire Burlesque. Credit when credit due. Has there ever been a more consistent string of brilliance in any popular music career that's now neared forty years? So how does one do it justice? Well frankly, I haven't the ability (maybe in four years my writing could be considered anything more than competent). I just figured I'd do what Waits himself does, and be true to myself. Write how I feel. Will it come across as bland at times? Perhaps. But let's see how it goes. The music. The albums. His jazz/ballad debut Closing Time, to his segregated triple disc Orphans. Then there's the live music. The early recordings. Whatever. This might not be chronological; might not even cover everything. But the essentials will not be overlooked. Nor underlooked. They'll be getting proper lookage, let me tell you that.

So. Now that this intro is nearly over, I hope you've made yourselves at home. Don't mind the smoke. Show's about to start. Please save any questions until the end. Or for whenever you feel like asking a question. I won't bite. Commence the chin hair scratching; the beer drinking; and most importantly – commence the music. It'll move. It'll groove. It'll soothe.
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Post by Björn » Wed Feb 24, 2010 1:04 am

You know, I've never listened to a Tom Waits album. Perhaps I'll listen along with the thread.
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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by steveholt » Wed Feb 24, 2010 1:05 am

I can agree with the statement the most imaginative and distinctive songwriter not named Dylan. That's a solid statement.

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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by bubba » Wed Feb 24, 2010 1:09 am

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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by Immaculate » Wed Feb 24, 2010 1:16 am

My dad was a big Tom Waits fan. Needless to say, I've kept the CDs he's passed on. Lookin' forward to it.
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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by bubba » Wed Feb 24, 2010 1:27 am

Also, lately I've come to the conclusion that somebody, it really doesn't matter who (although I think Jarmusch would be preferable), needs to stick Waits in a car with Werner Herzog and film it for as long as possible. I can't think of two people I enjoy listening to more than them.
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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by Sinister » Wed Feb 24, 2010 3:13 am

bubba wrote:Also, lately I've come to the conclusion that somebody, it really doesn't matter who (although I think Jarmusch would be preferable), needs to stick Waits in a car with Werner Herzog and film it for as long as possible. I can't think of two people I enjoy listening to more than them.
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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by DJ Rkod » Wed Feb 24, 2010 11:33 am

I think he's much more impressive than Dylan in the respects you mention. :P

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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by Wolfy » Wed Feb 24, 2010 11:36 am

DJ Rkod wrote:I think he's much more impressive than Dylan in the respects you mention. :P

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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by Torgo » Wed Feb 24, 2010 2:27 pm

Hope to see some love for Swordfishtrombones (his best album in my estimation).
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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by Epistemophobia » Wed Feb 24, 2010 7:27 pm

I still haven't got into Waits.
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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by Von Samuel » Wed Feb 24, 2010 8:50 pm

Waits is better than Dylan. Continue.
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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by Trevor » Wed Feb 24, 2010 9:07 pm

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Small Change
Released October 1976

This album appears right in the middle of Waits' period with Asylum Records; an era which lasted from 1973 to 1980. It was during these years that he produced his most conventional, genre-friendly records; a hybrid of jazz, blues, and piano ballads. Now, the conventionality doesn't make these albums any less worthy. They're all pure Waits, and Small Change would rank fairly high as one of favourite albums of his. Small Change is the drunken reflections of your everyman; one who's experience many short-ends and failed relationships. You have to wonder how much of this is really him, and how much belongs to these characters-of-sorts that he creates.

"Tom Traubert's Blues (Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen)", the album opener, is one of the finest ballads he's recorded. A heart-aching opus of six-and-a-half-minutes. The wailing of his voice lets it all out. It sounded like he had to struggle to get his voice that rough, back then; like, it was forced. And then his many years of doing this – along with his chain-smoking – gradually turned his vocals into what remains, today. I almost think he sounds better, now.

“Step Right Up” is the album's funnest song; an upbeat jazz number with impeccably poetc stream-of-conscious lyrics. “Jitterbug Boy” and “I Was I Was in New Orleans” follow; which are more somber pieces, and neither with the everlasting power of Tom Traubert's Blues.

Next is “The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)” , a fan favourite among Tom Waits admirers. It's actually the first song of his I've ever listened to. It's a bizarre song; as it carries over the melancholy tone of the previous two tracks, but has rather playful lyrics.

“Invitation of the Blues” is one of the better written pieces of Small Change. The soft tapping of the drums in “Pastries and a G-String” brings this performance alive on the record's shortest song. “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart” continues the down-and-out attitude of the earlier melancholy numbers. “The One That Got Away” is more imaginative. The title track places more emphasize on its narrative, with the low moaning of a sax being the only audible instrument. The album is closed up adequately with “I Can't Wait to Get off Work”; it's not the album's best song, neither a stand-out. It covers the same grounds, which in the case of Small Change, is certainly not a bad thing.

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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by Trevor » Wed Feb 24, 2010 9:18 pm

Von Samuel wrote:Waits is better than Dylan. Continue.
He's a better performer and musician for sure, but in regards to just song-writing, I do prefer Dylan. Although, they would be my #1 and #2 favourites [with Roger Waters and Leonard Cohen not too far behind].
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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by Von Samuel » Wed Feb 24, 2010 9:24 pm

Trevor-Trevor wrote:
He's a better performer and musician for sure, but in regards to just song-writing, I do prefer Dylan. Although, they would be my #1 and #2 favourites [with Roger Waters and Leonard Cohen not too far behind].
Cohen is a far better song writer than Dylan. That's not to say I don't think Dylan is great. But, I think too often we believe what we are told about Dylan. Dylan is a marketing genius, he knows what buttons to push to make people believe he is something far more than he is. People print the legend of Dylan, and lose sight of the man, and his work, which isn't as good as Cohen, or Waits.
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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by Trevor » Wed Feb 24, 2010 9:26 pm

Von Samuel wrote:
Cohen is a far better song writer than Dylan. That's not to say I don't think Dylan is great. But, I think too often we believe what we are told about Dylan. Dylan is a marketing genius, he knows what buttons to push to make people believe he is something far more than he is. People print the legend of Dylan, and lose sight of the man, and his work, which isn't as good as Cohen, or Waits.
Thoughts on Roger Waters?

Aside from the obvious Dark Side of the Moon/Wish You Were Here love, I equally adore The Wall and The Final. I liked Radio KAOS, too; that one was fun. Need to re-listen to Amused to Death.

I so dig Dylan's more cryptic writing. It tickles my fancy. I own his '66 book Tarantula, and got a lot of enjoyment out of it.
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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by Von Samuel » Wed Feb 24, 2010 9:30 pm

Trevor-Trevor wrote:
Thoughts on Roger Waters?

Aside from the obvious Dark Side of the Moon/Wish You Were Here love, I equally adore The Wall and The Final. I liked Radio KAOS, too; that one was fun. Need to re-listen to Amused to Death.

I so dig Dylan's more cryptic writing. It tickles my fancy. I own his '66 book Tarantula, and got a lot of enjoyment out of it.
I love Pink Floyd, and I think Waters is a good song writer, but I wouldn't put him in the same class as Cohen, Waits, and Dylan, but I don't measure him against them either.
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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by bubba » Thu Feb 25, 2010 2:30 am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gwUtEEjZJ8
Quite possibly my favorite video on youtube. Ignore the hosts at the beginning. This is what made me love Waits.
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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by Trevor » Thu Feb 25, 2010 2:31 am

bubba wrote:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gwUtEEjZJ8
Quite possibly my favorite video on youtube. Ignore the hosts at the beginning. This is what made me love Waits.
Fantastic performance. THAT was the first time I ever saw a video of him. What a personality!
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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by bubba » Thu Feb 25, 2010 2:34 am

Trevor-Trevor wrote:
Fantastic performance. THAT was the first time I ever saw a video of him. What a personality!
I came very close to making "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy" my senior quote.
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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by Trevor » Thu Feb 25, 2010 3:24 am

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Swordfishtrombones
Released September 1983

A decade into his music career, Waits was burning for a change. Heartatack and Vine showed signs of a yearning for something else. He stripped himself free of his manager and his record company. The chain-smoking piano player aching about lost love would never be the same, again. With Swordfishtrombones, he moved to a new company, and produced his own work. He would reveal to the world a new Tom Waits; one who would sing about surreal odysseys; one who shred himself of conventional use of instruments, and focus more on making his own arrangements – percussion, horns, the triangle. Hell- anything that could produce a sound, he probably experimented with. The album even contains three instrumental tracks, just to showcase his bizarre soundscopes. One of the highlights is the hilarious spoken word piece, “Frank's Wild Years”. From the '80s onward, spoken-word pieces accompanied with some music would become a staple in his music catalogue. There's also a change in his voice from his earlier music. Yes, it's gotten rougher. But it also feels more natural; his cryptic poetry and narratives leave his lips at such ease, as opposed to his '70s heartache songs that he pushed out of his being with a great heave.

Swordfishtrombones is a somewhat brief at 40-minutes in length, yet is comprised of 15 songs. The majority of the tracks being between two and three minutes each, Waits doesn't let the record ever hit a low or slow patch; there's energy present throughout. Songs like “Down, Down, Down” are the adrenaline that maintain the album's excitement. This isn't my favourite of his 1980s albums, but rather a sign of better things to come. [Yeah, I'm one of those people who really loves Rain Dogs.]

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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by bubba » Thu Feb 25, 2010 3:48 am

Trevor-Trevor wrote:Yeah, I'm one of those people who really loves Rain Dogs.
You say that like it's a bad thing. The world is made up of people who really love Rain Dogs and people who will spend eternity burning in hell.
And it isn't even my favorite Waits album
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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by Trevor » Thu Feb 25, 2010 3:53 am

bubba wrote: You say that like it's a bad thing. The world is made up of people who really love Rain Dogs and people who will spend eternity burning in hell.
And it isn't even my favorite Waits album
Naw. I didn't mean it as a bad thing. If anything, I often see it as being predictable for a Waits fan to have it as one of their favourites. But it's so hard to have to pick. I've now listened to maybe 16 or 17 of his albums. I like them all. These won't even be so much critiques; more-so just what I like about each album.
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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by bubba » Thu Feb 25, 2010 3:58 am

Trevor-Trevor wrote:
Naw. I didn't mean it as a bad thing. If anything, I often see it as being predictable for a Waits fan to have it as one of their favourites. But it's so hard to have to pick. I've now listened to maybe 16 or 17 of his albums. I like them all. These won't even be so much critiques; more-so just what I like about each album.
I generally list Frank's Wild Years as my favorite, but I've yet to hear a bad album from him.
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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by Von Samuel » Thu Feb 25, 2010 9:13 am

I claim a different Waits album as my favorite each time I think about it. Currently it's Blue Valentines.
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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by Monsieur Red » Thu Feb 25, 2010 9:25 am

Waits needs to act more.
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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by BigJilm » Thu Feb 25, 2010 10:05 am

Tom Waits, eh? This is one of my favorites.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JiwwJjjx ... re=related
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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by bubba » Fri Feb 26, 2010 4:47 am

Monsieur Red wrote:Waits needs to act more.
He also needs to do more good things, i.e., not Book Of Eli.
Although, in the interest of fairness, he was the only slightly memorable thing about that film.
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Post by Björn » Fri Feb 26, 2010 5:27 pm

He made a great Renfield.
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Re: Musings and Bemusings: Tom Waits and the music

Post by Trevor » Tue Mar 02, 2010 9:24 pm

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Bone Machine (1992)
Released August 1992

Bone. Machine. Bone: Mortal remains; the skeleton. Machine: A person who acts in a rigid, mechanical, or unconscious manner. There couldn't be a more suiting title.

This very well may be Waits' most harrowing album. There are less instruments at play. This stripped down blues voice, starring Waits' painful heart aches. A progression of his late '70s era, though. The common theme throughout the songs being mortality. Plus – the wear and tear in his voice.

Earth Died Screaming. How about that for an attention grabbing opener. “And someone will eat the skin that he sheds /and the earth died screaming/The earth died screaming/while I lay dreaming of you” The second song isn't any lightening, opening with the contemplative thought, “What does it matter, a dream of love/Or a dream of lies”.

A grandiose landscape is created in Bone Machine. Earthly music; spreading great distances. Well, the decay of earth, maybe. But then, everything does break down over time. I feel it, now. There's a desert; also part leaky furnace room. The rhythms devastate. The echoes boom.

The ocean doesn't want me today. An exhausted tale of a sea-traveller at the end of days.

Jesus Gonna Be Here, he moans. Oh, the yearning for something better.

In the Colosseum again throws us into his world; thrashing us relentlessly from verse to verse- I mean, from musty backdrop to musty backdrop. It becomes no less easy.

By now, the bruises will appear. The sweat stains your skin. But stop not. The hurricane in the distance. It's nearing. Fast.

Goin' Out West – one of his very strongest rockers. “Well I kno karate, Voodoo too/I'm gonna make myself available to you/I don't need no make up/I got real scars/I got hair on my chest/I look good without a shirt”

The hopelessness reaches a peak with I Don't Wanna Grow Up. The irony; so much, spilling over the cup. What pushes it to success is its playful allure.

Bone Machine. It's not a depressing album [certainly nothing like The Cure's Disintegration]. Its despair and emotionally crippling performances are placed elsewhere. It's an amusement park Carnival ride gone wrong. It straps you in and doesn't let go. You leave, tired and battered. You could use a rest. But oh God, what an experience it was. You never want to forget it.

Favourite Songs: “All Stripped Down”, “Goin' Out West”, “Murder in the Red Barn”, “Black Wings”
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