[Repost from Old Site]
To those of you who know Tom Waits, I doubt it comes a s a huge
surprise that this is my favorite album he ever did. It's a moment in
his career where his vast musical influences were distilled into
something memorable, artistic and accessible. To those of you who
aren't familiar with Tom Waits, a few brief preliminaries.
Tom Waits - Eggs and Sausage (In a Cadillac with Susan Michelson)]
Tom Waits came of age on the fringes of the Beat Generation,
a loose association of poets, writers, singers and jazz musicians with a
flair for anti-establishment lifestyles and the artistic expression
thereof. Tom Waits himself didn't start recording until the early 70's,
however, so he isn't officially considered part of the Beat Generation,
whose activities were mostly centered in the 50's and 60's. Waits
does, however, reflect their style well, and manages to distill it into
something less political, more comprehensible and completely unique.
first thing anyone notices about Waits is his voice. It sounds like
decades of cigarettes and whiskey filtered over a steady diet of asphalt
and tree bark. His distinctive croak lends itself well to the vocal
jazz/blues that make up much of his work, but it also gets a riotous
showcase in his latter-day pirate/circus/freakshow music. It's hard to
pin the man to a genre, he just is Tom Waits.
Nighthawks at the Diner
is a live album containing all previously unreleased material. Most
songs feature a rambling preamble from Waits that gives you the
authentic feel of being in a diner in the wee hours of some drunken
evening, listening to some unsung genius pour his twisted heart out on
the linoleum floor. Through a haze of greasy steam and cigarette smoke,
Waits croons about everything from lost loves to booze-soaked evenings
alone, from questionable meals in divey restaurants to romantic "dates"
with himself. It's an uncommon record from an uncommon artist, and
nowhere is his individual style clearer or better presented. His
ability to paint images into your head through deft word choice,
sincerity and clarity are paralleled by none in any era, in any genre.
Waits feels to me like an urban Johnny Cash, and this is his Live at Folsom Prison.