Customer Reviews

34
4.6 out of 5 stars
Mule Variations
Format: Audio CDChange
Price:£7.99+Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
35 years at the top of his game.

Between 1973's 'Closing Time' and the triple-whammy of 'Orphans' in 2006
Mr Waits has been resonsible for a whole lot of damned fine music
winging its' way out into this cracked and weary world of ours.

Every Waits fan will have their own favorite album.
Today mine is 'Mule Variations' (this time next year maybe it'll
be 'Small Change' again, or maybe 'Alice', or maybe....).

Released in 1999 on the Anti label this collection of sixteen
pieces seems to me to bring together everything that makes this
great maverick truly unique.
Parched, blistering rock and roll; drunken bar-room blues;
gentle heart-wringing ballads; deeply unsettling monologues.

....and stories! Always with the stories !

Painting small worlds alive with words and music has always
been his greatest gift.
Circus sideshow eccentrics; marginal paranoid loners and drifters and losers and lovers
line up to share their hopes and fears and longings.

....and stomping ! Always with the stomping !

All manner of things get thumped and slapped and crunched
( even drums sometimes ) to create the kind of rhythmic
mayhem and density of raw emotional sound which only this master
could muster. Guitarist Marc Ribot's solo on 'Cold Water' must
have stripped the paint off the ceiling.

....and suddenly it all falls away and there in the corner is
a man with a crooked hat and a broken down piano singing
a bruised and tender love song ( 'Take It With Me' ) of such hushed
intimacy that one can barely breathe until it's over.

This man and his many worlds are indivisible and precious.
44 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 24 April 2000
I have given up seeing Tom appear on stage in these parts but this will do for now. As ever, it has everything that one could expect - from the growling jazz to the type of song ("Hold On") which Bruce would have gobbled up in his heyday. Speaking of which, I doubt if Tom has had aheyday and, for me, that's a good thing. In his recent "2 Lectures" cd, Nick Cave called on Tom Waits when discussing the secret life of the love song and this is only right. Tom Waits is one of the great chroniclers of love - a particularly American kind of love at once urban and small town. There is something of the James Ellroy about Tom Waits - loose but still there. Finally, a word for the delicate and most wonderful, "Georgia Lee". This is Tom Waits at his most beautiful. A living genius when most geniuses are long gone.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 4 October 2000
' Mule Variations' is one those very rare, special albums that everybody should own. From the intro to Big in Japan the album takes you through a roller coaster of emotions and music all in unmistakeable, rough , gravelly Tom Waits style . Stand out cuts are difficult to pick as every song is superbly crafted and written 'Hold On' winner of a Grammy for best Rock vocal is a song that Springsteen would have wanted to write and features some of the best lyrics Tom Waits has written 'Chocolate Jesus' ' Take It With Me ' etc etc . Each song is a classic . The album isn't always immediate and every time it is played you always hear something different ....
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 10 September 2012
Tom Waits...hectoring circus ringmaster winking at the bearded lady; raucous denizen of sleazy hotel rooms; barfly with no flies on him; sloppy romantic bent on one scuffed knee before a lady in lurid scarlet and old furs; scrap metal dealer; owner of a drunken piano; jazz hound; torch-carrier for a vocal style hauled through hot coals and handed down by Howlin` Wolf & Cap`n Beefheart; slouchy grouchy wit & doctor of drollery; timber-shiverer, rain dog, whiphand; bad boy made good; family man - but then so was Gomez Addams...
He has the best-packaged CDs of anybody. This one, like all his recent releases, is housed in a digipak, with a booklet that has printed lyrics - worth reading alone -and b&w photos of our man as a legless scarecrow (no research needed) a doubled-over besuited & behatted leaf botherer, as well as, on the back cover, a man in a long black coat, goatee to the wind, fancy umbrella up, and on the front cover a sepia Tom in a barren field, hat lowered & looking at us as if to say "Come on in, if you got the nerve."
The music? It`s just great.
Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs, Frank`s Wild Years and Bone Machine had served notice that we weren`t likely to get any more nice conventional songs from this particular man no mo`. Big In Japan, the opener of this magnificent 70-minute diversion, is clattering proof of that. There`s a lot of very varied music to be had on this album, including a glorious ballad - old Tom always gave good ballad - called Picture In A Frame, and two tremendous songs to finish, the indulgently mournful Take It With Me and the gruffly hortatory Come On Up To The House. Don`t mind if I do, Tom.
On the way we hear the lovely Hold On, the bittersweet Black Market Baby, Georgia Lee - a complaint to an absent God - and the desperate House Where Nobody Lives.
Then there`s the spoken What`s He Building? which is like a short story by Ray Bradbury as narrated by Poe.
Mule Variations is one of Tom`s most satisfying albums. No wonder some call it his best.
These days I`d rather listen to Waits than almost anyone else. He`s still one of the most original songwriters around, with a musical sensibility that keeps fresh over album after album (his latest, Bad As Me, is superb).
What`s he building in there?
More weirdly wonderful songs, I expect.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Hits the G Spot- that time which wavers between 2am-4am where the night segues into the early day where life as performed in light hours is safely tucked in bed and the denizens of the night are carousing the small hours in various states of disarray. Pathos, lust, carnality, surrealism creak from under the floorboards.

This sups on a long glass boot of ale dribbling down its chin as it sings songs of penury, loss, heartache and despair with its pockets empty and its heart brimming with pathos. Caught with a glint in its eye as nother pritty liddle thing enters last chance saloon with a stiletto behind her back. These are delta blues tunes reworked intp Cenral European angst where the world shimmers and shimmies to a mushroom polka. Like Nick Cave, Tom has reworked the blues into something its original creators could be proud in having such a distinguished lineage as the imagination has been stretched rather than the bar beat formula of 4/4.

This contains enough songs of pounding rhythm and sad longing regret delivered within the Tom Waits legacy of the cracked gargle of a Marlboro rasp.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 August 2011
Picture in a Frame is simply one of the most beautiful songs ever put down. Damn, this is good stuff. I saw Waits on the Whistle Test years ago doin' some Waltzing Matilda thing and thought noooo, not for me. Didn't bother to listen again. Only took a look at this because Charlie Musselwhite plays on it and he plays God's very own harp. To my certain surprise I found myself in the grip of something awesome, not least, perhaps, because it was unexpected. This is all awkward and angular blues. Waits delivers his tales, dark and laconic, like the narrator of an Amercican dime detective novel. You picture a trilby pulled down over one eye and a cigarette planted affectedly between the lips. Waits opens windows and you want to climb though and take a look at what crime has been committed, though you suspect you may not be comfortable with what you find. Get Behind the Mule and Big In Japan rock bigtime. Needless to say I may have some catching up to do with the rest of Waits' catalogue. Or maybe something this good is a one-off. Charlie is impeccable.
22 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
This great album opens with Big In Japan, a humorous number in bluesy style with brilliant guitar and innovative arrangement, which is followed by the slow, eerie Lowside Of The Road, a real hangover song with striking imagery.
Hold On is a typical sad Waits ballad, which means it’s beautiful, tuneful and moving. It has an unusually light rhythm and melody though, unlike some of his other masterpiece ballads like for example In The Neighbourhood or Saving All My Love For You. House Where Nobody Lives is unique too, another gripping ballad with moving words and images. It makes me think of both Mansion On The Hill by Springsteen and the old classic Satisfied Mind.
All Waits’ styles are in glorious display including the talking blues of Get Behind The Mule and the deep bluesrock of ballads like Come On Up To The House and Cold Water. For someone who prefers his ballads and his singing voice, I find both quite appealing. The next track, Pony, is another one of my favorite slow melodic numbers embellished with exquisite pump organ, dobro and harp.
This album certainly lives up to its name with its astonishing variety, like the spooky spoken track What’s He Building and the story songs Black Market Baby and Eyeball Kid with its innovative samples and percussion. Waits even explores his Beefheartian side on Filipino Box Spring Hog. There’s also the gentle love song Picture In A Frame with its elegant piano and the sorrowful country song Georgia Lee.
Mule Variations is a masterpiece of an album that contains impressive, timeless songs of great lyrical depth, melodic beauty and stylistic variety. Whether you like Waits as a phenomenon by himself or whether you like only certain of his styles, this album will not disappoint as it offers enough brilliance for everybody.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 15 December 1999
Critics of the U.S.A. overlook one significant fact about the place, viz., no other country in the world could have given us Tom Waits, which is sufficient reason to forgive a mountain of sins in my book! If Waits was ever going to make a bad record, he would surely have done so by now! This is business as usual in terms of the range of material (from sentimental ballads such as "Picture in a Frame" to stuff that makes your ears bleed like "Filipino Box Spring Hog") but he has never done it better, and it is decidedly more focused than his last three albums. As usual, his fondness for odd instrumentation is strongly evident, the home made, Harry Partch style percussion enhanced this time by computer programing and even a DJ(!). Marc Ribot's guitar playing would be sufficient reason in itself for buying this record, and Charlie Musselwhite's harmonica work is also notable. Waits also stretches his voice even further than usual on some tracks, particularly on the percussion driven "Eyeball Kid", where he is occasionally reminiscent of Pere Ubu's David Thomas. Again, there is a song that Bruce Springsteen would have liked to have written ("Hold On"), and plenty of dark humour, especially the spoken track "What's he Building?". Waits just goes from strength to strength. If the Americans really new what they were about, this man would be the front runner candidate for the upcoming presidentual elections!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Mule Variations opens with Big In Japan, a humorous number in bluesy style with brilliant guitar and innovative arrangement, which is followed by the slow, eerie Lowside Of The Road, a real hangover song with striking imagery.
Hold On is a typical sad Waits ballad, which means it's beautiful, tuneful and moving. It has an unusually light rhythm and melody though, unlike some of his other masterpiece ballads like for example In The Neighbourhood or Saving All My Love For You. House Where Nobody Lives is unique too, another gripping ballad with moving words and images. It makes me think of both Mansion On The Hill by Springsteen and the old classic Satisfied Mind.
All Waits' styles are in glorious display including the talking blues of Get Behind The Mule and the deep bluesrock of ballads like Come On Up To The House and Cold Water. For someone who prefers his ballads and his singing voice, I find both quite appealing. The next track, Pony, is another one of my favorite slow melodic numbers embellished with exquisite pump organ, dobro and harp.
This album certainly lives up to its name with its astonishing variety, like the spooky spoken track What's He Building and the story songs Black Market Baby and Eyeball Kid with its innovative samples and percussion. Waits even explores his Beefheartian side on Filipino Box Spring Hog. There's also the gentle love song Picture In A Frame with its elegant piano and the sorrowful country song Georgia Lee.
Mule Variations is a masterpiece of an album that contains impressive, timeless songs of great lyrical depth, melodic beauty and stylistic variety. Whether you like Waits as a phenomenon by himself or whether you like only certain of his styles, this album will not disappoint as it offers enough brilliance for everybody.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 14 November 1999
I've got most of Tom Waits' albums from Closing Time to Mule Variations and I have to say this is probably his best yet. Every one of his albums has its classics but MV outdoes itself. Its worth the price just for 'Picture in a Frame' which is one the simplest and most impressive songs he's done. MV is also an incredibly varied album and shows off how well Tom can switch between radically different styles and make them all fit together. If you're new to Tom Waits, this is definitely the place to start.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Rain Dogs
Rain Dogs by Tom Waits (Audio CD - 1989)

The Heart Of Saturday Night
The Heart Of Saturday Night by Tom Waits (Audio CD - 1989)

Closing Time
Closing Time by Tom Waits (Audio CD - 1989)
 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.