Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tom Waits - Big Time

I am not well-versed in Tom Waits post-Island Records career, though I am getting more intrigued by this noisier portion of his trajectory. This live album came from his 1987 tour promoting Frank's Wild Years and was his first concert album (Nighthawks at the Dinner being recorded in front of an audience, but in a converted studio setting and consisting of new material) and was also released as a live movie (not sure if it is available on DVD at this time - can't find it if it is).

The songs here are mostly from his trilogy of Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs and Frank's Wild Years, though there are a couple of surprises, such as the reworking of "Red Shoes". As such, the tunes are fairly cacophonous though some reflect his earlier, jazzier tendencies, such as "Straight to the Top" and "Yesterday is Here", which could have easily come off of Small Change. Naturally, I dig the religious mania of "Way Down in the Hole", a mix of his younger days with some jagged guitar lines. The varied instrumentation is nice - the accordion in "Falling Down", the acoustic instruments in "Strange Weather", the demented carnival music of "Big Black Mariah", the psychotic sea chanty of "Rain Dogs", the piano ballads of "Train Song", "Johnsburg, Illinois" and "Ruby's Arms", the return of the band for the jump-jive of "Telephone Call from Istanbul", the bizarre exotica of "Clap Hands" and "Gun Street Girl" and then concluding with the quiet guitar ballad, "Time".

A good selection of material showing that his wackier tendencies were able to be translated into a live setting.