Sunday, October 30, 2011

Music Review: Return of Phlegm & Gravel

The new Tom Waits album is his 20-somethingth release and might well be one of his best. "Bad as Me" debuted last week to much accolade among those who claim to know good from awful these days. In typical Waits fashion he wheezes along, sometimes growling, rasping, other times working up to his unimitable falsetto. No new ground covered but the ground he covers is so unique - the mold was shattered when Mr. Thomas Alan Waits came into this world in 1949 in Pomona, CA.

The deluxe edition of Bad as Me has 16 tracks and kicks off with the jaunty "Chicago", which rattles along like a box car, driven by on by sax, trombone, harmonica, and a certain Keith Richards on guitar. The organ on "Raised Right Men" is like a knife and lyrics like "You need the patience of a glacier, If you can wait that long" are wheezed out with urgency. Somehow, Mr. Waits elevates his voice on "Talking at the same time" to that of a female blues singer in a smokey basement nightclub. Guitar accompaniment on this track is David Hidalgo of Los Lobos.

"Go Get Lost" sounds like a late 1950's rock & roll... "Face to the Highway" is a slower number, featuring some terrific guitar and violin. And so "Bad as Me" continues on with one gem after another. No filler or weakness here. The title track is Waits at his crazy-rhyming rumba bumbling best.

For the uninitiated, this is a very accessible album (not always the case with Tom Waits) and definitely one of the best I have heard in 2011.

Five out of five.

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