Artist: "Tom Waits"
Album: "Small Change"
Genre: Jazz
Label: Asylum Records

Reviewer: Babs
Posted: 4/5/2010

Review: Where is there even a starting point to describe the magnificence and beauty that is Tom Waits? Waits is this deconstructionist vaudevillian with a heart who rails against cynicism; a furious bluesman blaring unabashedly about the soul his words and music stretch into a bizarre land, where the light is slanted, eerie. Tom is that battered old suitcase in a hotel someplace, one filled with papers that have coffee stains and cigarette burns on them; left behind only a trail of laments leading back to a dog house in skid row. You need no invitation to hear this gut shot hound billowing out a bill of debt filled love, all you need is a record player and a mind that can take in a whole life's work of hurt. Now without further ado, I introduce you to the album Small Change, an album crafted masterfully by the genius that is Tom Waits.

Now when I first heard this album, I was already introduced to albums like Rain Dogs and Swordfishtrombones by Waits so I was anticipating an orchestration of various instruments and melodies that were furiously going against the grain. So to my surprise, I heard a more elegant side of Waits. He uses his cigarette burned and whiskey tinged voice in a style reminiscent of that to Louis Armstrong. To some, this is dreadfully hated because other listeners tend to be more into that eccentric side of Waits, the deconstructionist vaudevillian side. On the other hand, this could be a very smooth introduction to Tom Waits, where as he's focusing on the mood rather than the narrative in this album. It really gives you an in-depth look as to what really makes up the majority of Waits' charm.

When you first give this album a listen there will be no doubt the opening track, "Tom Traubert's Blues", will not fail to impress. Waits sidelines you as a spectator to his belligerent travelogues in Copenhagen after spewing the bile from his belly onto his Stacy's; a song telling the tales of every man attempting to drink their problems away due to misfortunes of ill induced love every guy that night... everyone he spoke to, a woman had put them there. With a memorable opening line such as, "Wasted and wounded, it ain't what the moon did. I got what I paid for now" really gives you that hard-line over tone to what is about to foretold in a monumental cornerstone to Tom's brilliant career: pride, perseverance, and above all others his sense of confidence. "Tom Traubert's Blues" successfully delivers a shot to the gut and heart with a pounding performance from Waits.

While Small Change may be riddled with other tracks with Kerouac-like raps such as, "Step Right Up", "Pasties and a G- String" (which I'm sure made even Bukowski grin for a moment), "The One That Got Away", and "Small Change" which are mostly reminiscent from his previous album Nighthawks at the Diner, you might find the other tracks ("Jitterbug Boy", "I Wish I Was in New Orleans", "The Piano has Been Drinking", "An Invitation to the Blues", "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart", and "I Can't Wait to Get off Work") to be a little more on the contemporary side of moody blues. While I can keep going on about how each individual track is a deep insight to the gloomy soul of Waits, more justice would be done if you would just go out and grab this record from your local music shop and give it a deep listen (I highly recommend getting this on vinyl, it really bestows that classy 20's-30's feel to it really does the album great justice).

Well, I tried my best to break the ice on this beautiful and masterfully crafted album by Tom Waits, it's your role now to take in the insight I have offered and be inclined to give it a chance. Understand this though; Tom Waits is a gentleman who dives into the abyss of meaning with a combination of words and raw sounds. He's a genuine pioneer of his sound and even more of a last footed soldier to his kind. While I tried my best to give him a starting point, there will be no end to what he has to offer to our ears. Let Waits' album Small Change play out in your mind the next time your four sheets to the wind in a blinded alley when go waltzing matilda.

Overall rating: WholeWholeWholeWholeHalf
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

Reader Comments

The #1 My Little Pony
Apr 5th, 2010, 02:24 PM
Nice review! I'm a huge Tom Waits fan. He's hard to describe sometimes, no doubt about that. I think you did a great job describing this album, and the Waits style.
Forum Virgin
Apr 6th, 2010, 01:22 PM
How did you manage to review this entire album and not mention that it has long been speculated that the girl on the cover is actually Cassandra Petersen (aka Elvira) in her pre-Elvira Showgirl days!?!?!
May 10th, 2010, 08:52 AM
Can anyone recommend a Tom Waits album for a newbie? I'm into some of his stuff but I'm not sure where to start.
filthiest soap dish
May 23rd, 2010, 05:24 AM
I personally enjoy Blood Money over a lot of Waits' albums just because of the progression he built off of on other previous albums.