And now for this blog’s first album review:

For those of you unfamiliar with Tom Waits, he’s a 61 year old musician/actor/composer and is basically amazing. He plays piano and guitar, but his voice is one of the main elements that sets him apart musically.

To quote critic Daniel Durchholz, Waits’ voice sounds “like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car.”

This is a compliment. Keep that in mind.

Waits’ other great musical aspect is that he is wonderfully idiosyncratic in his music and choice of genres. He does whatever he pleases, whenever he pleases, regardless of the world around him.

Before diving into the new album, I recommend checking out these songs from Waits’ highly regarded album, Rain Dogs:

Singapore

Clap Hands

Cemetery Polka

Jockey Full of Bourbon

Rain Dogs

9th and Hennepin

Gun Street Girl

Walking Spanish

Anywhere I Lay My Head

Did you listen? Pretty epic yet weird, no? Here’s a fun fact: that album came out in 1985.

Considering what topped the charts in the mid 80’s, it’s pretty astounding that an album like that could even have been created.

26 years go by, and we find ourselves with the release of Waits new album: Bad as Me.

Bottom line: this is a fantastic album. If you liked those selections from Rain Dogs, you may have felt the need to check out the rest of the album. There’s a few other swell selections to be sure, but there’s also a number of slow songs that feel somewhat off. Even after many repetitions of Rain Dogs, I can never quite place my finger on the issue, but somehow those slower numbers just don’t resonate with me. For the lack of a better term, they feel hokey.

Before I continue, though, bear in mind that I’m not bashing all slow Tom Waits songs. For example, check out “Picture in a Frame” from the 1999 Grammy winning album, Mule Variations. Beautiful. End of story.

However, Bad as Me does not suffer from the hokey, slow song issue. It’s the first Tom Waits album that I’ve enjoyed from beginning to end. It’s as though the slow songs lost that unpleasant element and feel more genuine. There could be a number of reasons for this: the addition of a more bluesy vibe, the wisdom/maturation that comes only with age, or perhaps the simplification of certain aspects (instrumentation, lyrics, etc.).

Either way, all of these songs have something going for them as exemplified in the following notes for each track:

  1. Chicago: upbeat and raw; plus, imagining a 60 year old man screaming “all aboard” like a train conductor is quite a mental image
  2. Raised Right Men: the percussive droning sound puts you in a mild trance and next thing you know, the song is over, which makes you want to go back and experience it all over again
  3. Talking at the Same Time: I can’t believe that this Tom Waits singing; up until this song, I’d never knew his voice was capable of such range and tonal versatility
  4. Get Lost: if you don’t want to dance this one, you might want to check your pulse
  5. Face to the Highway: one of the songs that could have suffered from the hokey issue from above, but, again, the passage of time and life makes this feel real
  6. Pay Me: a sad song reminiscent of the horrors of the circus from centuries past (this may or may not be what the song is actually about, but it’s the mental image that I get every time I hear it)
  7. Back in the Crowd: honestly, this is the one song that I could do without; still decent though
  8. Bad As Me: Waits likes to use lyrical patterns in many of his songs; this portrays that practice to a tee in an epic rocking fashion
  9.  Kiss Me: jazzy and longing; fantastic
  10. Satisfied: an homage to (Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones; he mentions “Mr. Jagger and Mr. Richards” a few times if the title wasn’t enough of a clue; to top it off, Keith Richards plays guitar on this track (as well as the next two)
  11. Last Leaf: I wasn’t immediately sold by this song, but the fact that Keith Richards sing backup vocals and plays guitar changed all of that; the fact that Mr. Richards can still sing is just mind-blowing
  12. Hell Broke Luce: strange but brilliant; another lyrical pattern song; this would receive my vote as favorite track of the whole album
  13. New Year’s Eve: the fact that he worked Auld Lang Syne into the structure note not just once, but twice, sells this song – hands down

There are also three bonus tracks if you buy the deluxe edition, but they don’t really compare to these 13, so I’ll leave the notes as is.

Lastly, in addition to Keith Richards’ guest appearance, Flea and Les Claypool (and others) play on a few tracks. This versatility of musicians really breathes life into the album and keeps the listener interested from start to finish.

I’ve listened to Bad as Me roughly 20 times through as this point, and I’m only growing more fond of it. Do yourself a favor, give it a try. Tom Waits isn’t for everyone, but you never know: his growling brilliance may just hook you.

-Spurrier

Hello all,

So instead of one topic today, I’m going to provide some bullet points regarding a number of different musical categories. Nick Goodrich, co-leader/founder of Lindby, is getting married this Saturday, so life is a little crazy to say in the least. Expect a return to full-length blog posts next week.

  • Jared Arnold’s, Lindby’s now ex-drummer, last show occurred this past Friday at the Cellar out in Fort Worth. I have never seen that venue as packed as that night. People dancing, screaming, rocking out, and just having a good time from the looks of it. We wrapped up the night with the proverbial passing of the torch by having Jared pass off drums to the one and only Tanner Brown (check out the Events page for the next opportunity to see Tanner rocking out with us). Expect some pictures (and possibly some HD video) soon.
  • This past Sunday, Mel and I went out to Campania in Southlake to see Mike Springer, my piano teacher, and Andy Sperandeo, my former guitar and voice teacher, play in a jazz trio and enjoy some delightful food and drinks. The coolest part is that the trio performed up on the top floor, which turns out to be a roof patio. After the hottest summer on record, listening to some jazz on the roof of a building with a cool autumn breeze seemed just about right.
  • Only partially musically related but still important: I began reading the book Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. Once I finish it, I’ll likely do a whole blog post about it, but even though I’m only two chapters in, I can safely say it’s becoming one of my favorite books ever.
  • Lastly, I just ordered all of the top rated, early Black Sabbath albums from Amazon. Why not just download them form iTunes or listen to them on Rhapsody? Because they aren’t on there (and no, I won’t be pirating them because, as a professional musician, it’s hard to think of a better example of irony than stealing music)! Amazingly, the only Sabbath that I can find in digital form is during the Ronnie James Dio years. Nothing personally against Dio, but no thank you. Ozzy forever. Plain and simple. I’ve only ever listened to their second album, Paranoid, and have always loved it. Yes, it’s metal, but only part of the time. Sometimes it’s just psychedelic madness or just awesome instrumental jams. I am quite pumped for this package to arrive.

So there you have it: Lindby, jazz, amazing books, and Black Sabbath. That should do for now. Off to pick up my groomsman tux!

Spurrier