Bad As Me CD
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Throughout his career, Tom Waits has created milestone albums that serve both to refine the music that has come before, and to signal a new phase in his career: Rain Dogs and Mule Variations are both counted by fans as among these pivotal works. Now comes Bad As Me, his first studio album of all new music in seven years, which finds Tom Waits in possibly the finest voice of his career and at the height of his songwriting powers, working with a veteran team of gifted musicians and longtime co-writer/producer Kathleen Brennan.
It's been five years since Tom Waits released Orphans, a triple album that mixed new songs with a clear out of oddities and outtakes, making Bad as Me his first album of all-new material since 2004's scabrous and sonically inventive Real Gone. Couple that with his reputation as one of the greatest musicians of the last 40 years and it's fair to say that expectations for Bad as Me are high.
The album ignites more than begins, the hot, horn-fuelled blues of Chicago rushing straight into Raised Right Men's dagger-like organ stabs. Talking at the Same Time offers a withering report on the financial crisis ("Someone makes money when there's blood in the street"), Waits crooning in his familiar, eerie falsetto while slide guitar blooms over a brushed backbeat. But with the disposable roadhouse jive of Get Lost it becomes apparent that Bad as Me lacks the cohesiveness of a Swordfishtrombones or Bone Machine. While those albums develop a unity even as they leap between radically diverse styles, from avant-garde soundscapes to cocktail jazz and hellish blues, the songs here feel less closely related to one another. In this regard Bad as Me is similar to Mule Variations, which offered a taster menu of Waits' Island Records period. Seeing as it is the most successful album of his career, and a favourite of many for whom it was the introduction to his work, this needn't be considered a bad thing.
It would be a twisted world where Bad as Me was judged a disappointment, as there isn't a dud on it. But it's also the Tom Waits album that most undeniably echoes previous works. Satisfied - a coil of spiky, swaggering energy - could segue straight into Big Black Mariah; Kiss Me is almost uncomfortably close to Blue Valentines; New Year's Eve, which stows a traditional, sentimental song (Auld Lang Syne) inside a boozy ballad, repeats the same sleight performed by Tom Traubert's Blues (that time with Waltzing Matilda) in 1976.
This seems a backward step for an artist who, certainly since the watershed of Swordfishtrombones in 1983, has attempted to resist repetition. The bracing experimentation of Real Gone, for example, was arrived at by Waits leaving his comfort zone and abandoning keyboards. But while portions of Bad as Me feel overly familiar there remain some outstanding moments here. Face to the Highway glimmers darkly with a world weariness bordering on disgust; the lyric of Last Leaf, a duet with Keith Richards (who has cropped up previously on Rain Dogs and Bone Machine), blends sorrow and sly humour as it both celebrates and laments being the "last leaf on the tree". It's the kind of broken-down plaint Waits has been singing since Closing Time in 1973, but is crusted with added pathos when it's coming from a 61-year-old. The album highlight, however, is the distorted stomp of Hell Broke Luce. Looping a fragment of Waits' wheezy exhalation alongside the croak of a tenor sax and a martial beat, the song gets inside the head of an American veteran of Iraq or Afghanistan - "Now I'm home, and I'm blind, and I'm broke" - and joins Real Gone's Day After Tomorrow and Orphans' Road to Peace as an artefact of Waits' late-flowering talent for addressing aspects of American foreign policy.
It's to be regretted that there isn't more here that calls attention to itself in the same way. Bad as Me mostly finds Waits roaming his property, repainting the fence instead of jumping over it into the next uncharted field. But while this isn't a great album it's still a very good one, and even lesser Waits is worth a lot in any other currency.
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Top Customer Reviews
The album starts with "Chicago" a roaring blast of horns and fast chops which sees Waits in fine voice and doing a Casey Jones style "all aboard" chant. He follows it by outdoing Nick Cave in the dirty blues stakes with "Raised Right Man" where Waits exclaims "Heavens to murkatroid/Miners to coal/A good women can make a diamond out of a measly lump of coal".Read more ›
i would also say that i came to tom waits quite late (probably about a decade ago, and so listened to it in a fairly unordered sequence. therefore, bone machine was about the fourth album i listened to, etc, so i wasn't burned out by then - i just recognised the better writing and invention in the earlier stuff, and the stagnation in the later stuff. i also find he delivers his lyrics better in the older albums. his real strength for me over the years has been his simply wonderful lyrics, and powerful delivery. he has kept the beautiful voice, and in some ways that has got better. eg in the black rider and alice, that voice is so rich and powerful, there really is little in music to compare with it. it's an instrument as much as a voice, and he inhabits his different characters to wonderful effect. that voice is the reason i will always buy his albums. there's no fix like it.Read more ›
Having been a Tom fan since the 1970s when Small Change was released, I always look forward to the new releases and am rarely disappointed. Having read a few reviews of this latest album, I wasn't too sure what to expect. Well what an album! Nothing out of the ordinary on the first few listenings and then it begins to hit you. The wonderful rhythms of the opening track, the stomping energy of the next and the wonderful tunefulness of next... and so it continues throughout. So what if some of the tracks remind us of songs gone by, he's not the first artist to rework old ideas and bring fresh energy to them. If you want to try some Tom Waits this is as good a place to start as any. It doesn't happen too often but at the moment,I can't stop playing it. It's always difficult to pick a favourite and I'm sure when I next listen to Swordfishtrombones or Mule Variations etc. I will change my mind,but at the moment this is my favourite Tom album. Buy it and love it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The item arrived exactly as described, and before I expected it. Buy with confidence.Published 22 months ago by Jacques coetzee