I found Waits via his readings of Bukowski’s works (to me Waits sounds exactly like Hank’s poems were meant to sound when read aloud, versus the author’s own readings, which to me just absolutely fail).
–and also via the Bulletboys’ “Hang on St. Christopher,” if we’re being honest–
And though I really like several, this if by far my fave Waits album.
It’s a live set, from 1975. Each song has an intro (meaning badinage with the audience before the actual song commences) and then the song itself.
This is the near-perfect intersection of poetry and music– Waits essentially talks through many of these songs/tales, and the primary reason to keep listening is not the song, nor the melody (though those are good)– but the narrative. See, in particular, “Big Joe and Phantom 309,” with its ghost-storied tale, not unlike the tale of Large Marge from “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.”
Think of it as a boozy “Prairie Home Companion.”
It’s a lounge act –but not in the derogatory, Bill Murray’s SNL “Nick Winters the Lounge Singer” variety– but in the most entertaining/ yet still sleazy version possible. If Waits isn’t drunk while performing these tunes he’s doing a great impersonation of it: witness his slurred and sung discussions of the local Los Angeles eateries, which, judging by the audience’s response, are accurate and witty regardless.
It’s a very relaxing, intimate, late-night piece of work.
Opening intro is all sax and piano and slurred speech– and though there’s an alto sax, it’s not particularly “jazzy”– the horn is just used to exaggerate the late-night atmosphere for the stories contained within the tunes.
This is background music (a term I hate; no music should be meant for the background), but in the best sense. Put this on and you’ll drift off to sleep in the absolute best company.
And your subconscious will be absolutely laden with interesting tales.
Enjoy your luscious dreams.