Friday, 4 February 2011

Affecting albums - Blue Valentine - Tom Waits

(Click on the links in the song titles to be taken to Spotify for a listen)

Tom Waits is a man of many talents. Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and sometime actor, he has created a musical world all his own, which can be weird and wonderful at times. Even if you haven't heard him, you may have heard some of his songs sung by others, such as Jersey Girl or Downtown Train.

Tom Waits has a bit of a cult following, and I am a devotee - at last count I had 11 of his albums nestling in my iPod. Which brings me to the subject of this post - Blue Valentine.

In some ways this is the easiest entree into the world of Tom Waits and his music - Blue Valentine, while definitely quirky, is not quite as eccentric as some later albums - indeed it begins with a lushly orchestrated version of Somewhere, from West Side Story. The first indication that this might be something different is when you hear Tom's gravelly, husky voice - with a sound somewhere between Louis Armstrong and a lion's roar.

The rest of the album is a mix of bluesy tunes, and songs with a strong narrative lyric, such as Red Shoes by the Drugstore, Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis$29.00, and Romeo is Bleeding. These songs evoke the seedier side of life- hoodlums, wastrels and drug addicts. The instrumentation is sparse, loose and incredibly hip.

Waits' has a finely honed blues sensibility- his vocals are exquisitely timed, and delivered with a lot of soul.

The final song on the album- Blue Valentines, is a wonderful Jazz ballad, and a fine way to end what is truly a great record, that repays much listening.

Blue Valentine is available via iTunes, or at Amazon

Cheers for now, from
A View Over the Bell

1 comment:

  1. Yes, one of my favourite Tom Waits CD's. Think it was the first time he used his gravel vocals