17 April 2013

16th April - Tom Waits' Mule Variations

Artist – Album: Tom Waits – Mule Variations
Released:  16th April 1999
Sounds Like:  The piano has been drinking (and me)

This blog is clearly in danger of being posted on the wrong day, so I’m going to have to make it a quick one...

Few people can compare to Tom Waits in ways of acclaim vs sales. Sure, this project has mostly been populated by acts that have garnered a load of praise but have hardly set the world alight, but seriously. It seems that everyone, from discerning, gig-going youngsters to their red wine guzzling, dinner party attending parents, loves Tom Waits (check out ‘Big in Japan’ and ‘Eyeball Kid’ for the reasons why) and yet I don't actually know anyone who has bought one of his records. Mule Variations was by far his greatest hit, scoring a number 9 (he managed to break the top 10 people) in the UK charts.

I'll admit, I myself know Waits best for his role as the M-like Doc Heller character in early 00’s movie flop Mystery Men. As much as his wonderful gravelly voice was well picked up by the boom guys of Hollywood, this failed to transcribe into huge theatrical success, and so he was forced to rely on his rarely-below-exceptional music to see him through. I also knew him for a couple of his older songs – ‘The Piano Has Been Drinking’, a song not especially different to ‘Get Behind the Mule’, and ‘Downtown Train’, the song that would go on to be covered by Rod Stewart (but please don’t let that put you off) and best represented here by ‘Hold On’.

Lowside of the Road’, ‘Cold Water’, ‘Pony’ – these are all great songs that help to add to the legacy of Mr Waits. 'Picture in a Frame' is the most beautiful tune to be heard here; a delicate love song which reminded me of an old Randy Newman ballad called 'Marie'. The album never really disappoints, regularly contacting standard Waits’ touchstones, although it also surprised me that it’s relatively recent at only 14 years old. I guess that’s because it never really builds upon the general awesomeness of other, earlier albums from the guy.

In summation, this is a good Tom Waits album, nothing more. Which means that it’s a great album by anyone else's standards.

Albumaday... rating: 8/10

1.       Big in Japan – 4:05
2.       Lowside of the Road – 2:59
3.       Hold On – 5:33
4.       Get Behind the Mule – 6:52
5.       House Where Nobody Lives – 4:14
6.       Cold Water – 5:23
7.       Pony – 4:32
8.       What’s He Building? – 3:20
9.       Black Market Baby – 5:02
10.   Eyeball Kid – 4:25
11.   Picture in a Frame – 3:39
12.   Chocolate Jesus – 3:55
13.   Georgia Lee – 4:24
14.   Filipino Box Spring Hog – 3:09
15.   Take It with Me – 4:24
16.   Come on Up to the House – 4:36

Listen to ‘Picture in a Frame‘http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pwxD8quPCg 

Also released on the 16th April:
1964: The Rolling Stones – The Rolling Stones

Also released on the 16th April:
1996: Modest Mouse – This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About

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