My brother-in-law first introduced me to Tom Waits. He had generously given my wife and I his car when we moved to Nova Scotia vehicle-less. Being a city boy in Toronto he felt we could use a car more than he, as it’s faster to take transit around Toronto than to drive anyways. Included with this generous 01’ish Pontiac Sunfire, was a box of his coveted cassette tapes. Included in this eclectic collection was Van Morrison‘s “Moondance,” Wax Mannequin‘s “The Price,” “The Remains of Brian Borcherdt Vol: 1,” and Tom Waits’ debut album “Closing Time.” Needless to say, these are all fantastic albums and if you haven’t heard them, you owe it to yourself to give em’ a listen. Like I said, this was my introduction to Tom Waits. A fitting introduction, as it was his first album, and doubly fitting in that I was, at the time, quite taken with Neil Young, The Band and Leonard Cohen. Waits’ fit snuggly in there with these cats with songs like “Ol 55,” “Old Shoes (And Picture Postcards)” and “Martha.”
When I decided to dig deeper into the world of Waits, I was shocked and surprised with the radical departure from his debut. The crooning songwriter who could have filled in for Richard Manuel, now sounded like a recovering tracheotomy patient who decided to become a Disney Villian. Strange lyrics and a vaudevillian burlesque approach to music threw me off .
Eventually however, I soon came to realize that the initial impression of husky vocals and strange arrangements could not deter the fact that this man is an amazing songwriter unlike anyone on the planet. “Blood Money” became the first album since the debut that I whole heartedly dove into, quickly followed by “Mule Variations“. Both are exceptional examples of Waits uniqueness and unwillingness to fit into what was expected of him.
I still have much of his discography to pore over, and figured I’d insert his newest release into the first week of 365 albums. I’m halfway through the listen right now as I type and I’ve loved every song I’ve heard thus far. It may be his most accessible album in a while. “Chicago” kicks things off proper and it only gets more interesting from there. The title track is blowing me away right now. “You’re the same kind of bad as me.” The instrumentation and bizarre songwriting has catapulted Waits to the top of my “must see live” list. “Last Leaf” is an example of Waits’ beautiful poetry, his storytelling abilities and his mastery of the combination of words and music. Weirdly enough, after that haughty intro talking bout “Closing Time,” this feels as accessible as that album. Or maybe it’s because my musical palette has become accustomed to the growl of Tom Waits.
Beautiful closing song.