Volume 94, Issue 99
Wednesday, March 28, 2000
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Musician, poet, actor, playwright Tom Waits, a genuine oddball, does it all.
In the 30 years since Waits' first appearance in the spotlight, he has consistently shown himself to be a man of unique vision, following his muse wherever it takes him and tackling some truly ambitious projects along the way. For all of his many talents and interests however, it is his music which has received the most attention and with good reason.
His most recent album, 1999's Mule Variations, was a masterpiece that encapsulated the path he had been treading for nearly 20 years a path that saw Waits create a series of records full of truly unidentifiable and totally unique music. There simply hasn't been anyone who has created anything even close to the sounds Waits has produced over the last two decades. A fact that makes his bizarre but strangely accessible music seem all the more visionary.
However, that wasn't always the case. Waits' first musical endeavours were of a completely different sort; his early records contain a repertoire of bluesy, alcohol soaked lounge jazz. But, while the music he made in those days is certainly more conventional than his later work, that doesn't make it any less dazzling. In fact, though his '70s output wasn't consistent, his second album, 1974's The Heart Of Saturday Night, remains one of the finest records of Waits' career.
Opening with the wonderfully boisterous "New Coat Of Paint," the tone of the record is set early. This is mood music, clearly intended for listening in the wee hours of the night, preferably with a glass of scotch in hand. Throughout the album, Waits sings of romance and New York street life, painting a rose-coloured portrait of events that only occur after dark. Other songs of note include the touching "Shiver Me Timbers" and the intoxicated sentiments of "Drunk On The Moon."
Aside from the instrumentation, which tends to focus on Waits' splendid piano work with only a traditional jazz combo backing or some tasteful strings, those familiar with Waits' more recent work may be shocked by The Heart Of Saturday Night. The cause of this surprise? Waits' voice. Though still far from the classical definition of a good singer, his performances are a world away from the grizzled, throaty voice he possesses now.
A remarkably accomplished, satisfying album, The Heart Of Saturday Night is a record worthy of a spot in any collection.
Aaron St. John
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