Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tom Waits – Heartattack and Vine

According to stories that I’ve heard, this album title came from an instance when Tom was drinking in a Hollywood Blvd. bar (I’m thinking it was the Frolic Room) when a patron started to have a heart attack and the bar tender told him to take it outside! The heartlessness kinda threw Waits for a loop but inspired him to make a great record!

This is by far Tom’s bluesiest album, opening with the swingin’, almost trashy sounding title track, which became one of my fave Waits’ tunes the moment I first heard it! This has a very prominent, noisy guitar that propels the number while Tom jives his way through. Just excellent!

This is followed by a Booker T & the MG’s styled blues, “In Shades”, which conjures up visions of beats snapping their fingers in time while diggin’ the sounds. “Saving All My Love For You” is a traditional Waits piano ballad, harkening back to his earlier records, complete with strings. Not quite as memorable as some of the previous tunes, but still Tom.

Back to the swinging blues in “Downtown”, with its groovy organ sound and terrifically simple but supremely catchy chorus. You can’t help but move while listening to this one! Another ballad is “Jersey Girl”, though this time it is guitar-based with strings make another appearance. This is practically a cross between Closing Time-era Waits and Bruce Springsteen! Hopefully that description won’t scare off anyone as it is a strong number and very cinematic – if it hasn’t already been used in a movie, it should be!

“’Til the Money Runs Out” is an upbeat, danceable shuffle with more Booker T Hammond organ. Balancing out the blues is another piano/orchestra ballad about being down & out in downtown LA on 5th Street, or as Tom would say, “On the Nickel”.

Drunken swing returns in “Mr. Siegal” with its barrelhouse piano and devilish lyrics, making it another highlight of the record and also a highlight of his Used Songs compilation. Keeping with the theme of alternating the blues with the ballads is another orchestra number, the closer, “Ruby’s Arms”.

Personally, I don’t think that the slower numbers on this record are some of his best, but the swingin’ blues can’t be beat and rate as high as anything else that he has done, making this a superb album that I waited far too long to get!