Tom Waits, Blue Valentine (1978)
This is the first Tom Waits album I ever heard – so it is my favourite; just for that. If I hadn’t heard this I might never have heard Rain Dogs and Swordfishtrombones and Mule Variations and all the other albums. I’ve collected all of the Tom Waits albums. I’m still put off by his latest – but maybe I’ll get there. I just don’t think it’s as special as people are saying. That said, maybe this album isn’t all that special to other Tom Waits fans – I can’t even try to be objective because I fell under the spell when I heard this. And I remember that (wonderful) feeling every time I hear this. If I was listening to this now for the first time I might think jeez, his timing is exquisite, moving in this direction just as Captain Beefheart was getting bored. And that’s an important sort of thought to have with Waits: to realise that the reason he’s a more than decent actor is because that’s exactly what he is – an actor. He is actor before he is musician, he is musician-as-actor. His every move, album, song is calculated. His boho-chic thing is brilliant. You actually believe he lives in a place like Carlucci Land. And if he does he might do interviews and photo-ops out the front but he’d then sneak off to an actual house behind the obvious-facade Still, I don’t really think about all that when I play Blue Valentine. The guard slips. And I’m pleased. It means I can sink in to Romeo Is Bleeding and $29.00 and I can just enjoy Tom-acting-as-Tom. On some of the other albums I find that act less enjoyable now. But the best stuff is still great. And he’s done a good job of convincing so many people that he is the real deal. As I said here – speaking about the new album – I don’t catch much of a a sniff of actual authenticity about him. But I still have every record he’s ever done. Including that new one. So something keeps me hooked. Clearly.
Sample Track: Kentucky Avenue
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