Thursday, January 15, 2009

January 15: Tom Waits, "Nighthawks At The Diner"

Artist: Tom Waits
Album: Nighthawks At The Diner
Year: 1975
Label: Asylum

Tom Waits is a god. This should not be breaking news to anyone. Some people (me) might argue that he has always been a FAR better song writer than Bob Dylan. Waits is always pushing the boundaries of music with consistently phenomenal results.

Recorded live on July 30/31 of 1975, Nighthawks At The Diner captures Waits in his ultimate element: a small crowd and no curfew. He wastes no time jumping into his tongue-in-cheek comedy, “I’m so horny, the crack of dawn better be careful around me…” What follows is over an hour of perfection. Waits, holding the crowd in his palm as he follows the music where it is want to go. The recording builds a wonderful ambience and you, as the lucky listener, are transported into the studio, sitting with the handful of lucky guests.

Waits is backed by a simple three piece of bass, drums, and sax and they compliment his one of a kind piano perfectly. The band is able to follow Tom through his meandering, yet whimsical improvisations which appear especially difficult on songs like "Spare Parts" and "Nighthawk Postcards." Throughout the entire album, they are truly moving as a single unit in, out, and around Waits' tales.

Waits paints picture after picture, from his own dingy apartment to the passenger seat of an 18-wheeler to the counter of a greasy diner, all brilliantly described to the point that you can smell the diesel. Thankfully, the crowd was sober enough to keep their mouths shut so, there is very little “chatter,” though the audience rarely misses a punchline from Tom’s endless battery of jokes.

Tom Waits has proven over the past 40 years that he IS the cutting edge of music. Constantly trying new ideas and new formats, Waits always has a fresh ideas both musically and lyrically. Whille Nighthawks At The Diner is seemingly a mellow, relaxed live recording, it is also a peek into the madness and genius at makes Tom Waits a true anomaly in the history of music.

Standout tracks: "Putnam County," "Big Joe & Phantom 309," and "Spare Parts."

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