1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
$29 and an alligator purse,
This review is from: Blue Valentine (Audio CD)
Following on from the excellent, if patchier, Foreign Affairs, this album is Waits at his least compromising, most musically and lyrically assured, which is more than can be said for its follow-up, Heartattack & Vine - but that`s another story.
Unusually for a TW record, this features electric piano on many tracks, courtesy of a guy sporting the unlikely moniker of Da Willie Gonga (he`s actually well-known funk keyboardist George Duke, moonlighting away from his normal habitat).
Tom Waits singing Somewhere sounds like something rare and risky, until one remembers - and I do remember - PJ Proby`s not entirely dissimilar 60s hit with this
dramatic West Side Story standout. Waits sings it straight, and makes it his own, backed by the most opulent strings you ever did hear.
After being lulled by such a lush opener, things get down to business with Red Shoes By The Drugstore, a jumpy, percussive sung-spoken number that is vintage 70s Waits.
Christmas Card From A Hooker...is a wonderfully jaded, drained song with a welcome
dose of Tom`s piano duetting eloquently with Duke`s electric keys, Waits sounding a lot like he used to on his earlier albums. It`s a perfect example of Waits the romantic chronicler of down-and-out, downtown backstreet America...
"I`ll be eligible for parole, come Valentine`s Day"
It`s one of Waits` most heartfelt vocals. A great song.
Romeo Is Bleeding is another half-spoken number, with a suitably jazzy backing, a snazzy organ in there too this time, not to mention a fine tenor sax solo by Frank Vicari.
$29 has always been a favourite of mine. This leisurely 8-minute track not only saunters along like the sleaziest of blues songs, it has a killer hook at the end of each verse built around the phrase "29 dollars and an alligator purse" (pronounced by Waits most of the time as "poisse"). Oh, and dig this canny couplet:
"you say your ex old man was a sax player,
he`ll say, Baby I used to play bass for Sly"
Other highlights for me are the two ballads Kentucky Avenue, which is as moving a song as Tom ever came up with, utterly beautiful, and the album`s closer, the brief Blue Valentines, both sung to a minimal backing of mainly his own piano.
Tom was still walking out with Rickie Lee Jones (the lucky devil) when he made this triumphant record, and it really is one of his very best. He rarely if ever seems to
be `doing a Tom Waits` or striking a pose, as even his biggest fans (me, for example) recognise he would do at times, for good or ill.
Blue Valentine is not only a confident improvement on Foreign Affairs, it was to be his finest studio effort until Swordfishtrombones signalled an irrevocable - and no
doubt much-needed - change of musical direction five years later.
Beguiling, captivating, marvellous.