1975 – Asylum
Jazz/ Blues/ Rock
Prepare yourself, dear reader, as we are about to journey once again into the smoky depths of Tom Waits’ fantasy world of jazz bandits and bohemian blues.
Nighthawks is a particularly interesting album in terms of the Asylum years as it is a sort of quasi-live album. All of the music was performed and recorded in front of a live audience in one take, but the venue was constructed inside the studio entirely for the purposes of making the record. The effect of this strange set-up is amazing, however. The live patter of Waits is friendly and full of wit, and from the time he wanders onto the stage and slurs “an inebriated good-evening to you all,” you’re entranced by his storytelling.
That, in my opinion, is where the charm of this record really lies. Tom Waits feels like a charmingly hoarse (if somewhat drunk) pianist sitting right there in your living room telling you stories and jokes, furthermore he’s someone you actually want to have there. It’s a bit like spending the evening with an old friend (and to certain Tom Waits fans this might be more true than not).
The music itself isn’t really all that wonderful. It’s mainly rolling piano ballads that go nowhere and tuneless ramblings through the obscured urban nightmares of the working poor, but somehow that doesn’t take away from the immense character and allure of the thing. Waits really is funny when he’s trying to be and he’s sweet when that’s his aim, even if it does all come across as a bit overacted and hammy.
Some tracks are better than others, such as Better Off Without A Wife and Warm Beer and Cold Women, but I still find myself looking forwards more to the next introduction then the next song. In fact the songs on this record don’t really work very well at all outside of the context of the album itself – it’s really not something that you could just pop on your mp3 player and add to the shuffle list. However, when you do sit down and listen to it start to finish (perhaps with a nice bottle of wine or a fine cigar) there is a certain brand of nostalgia and magic that only Tom Waits can seem to produce.
I summary I would say that Nighthawks At The Diner is an excellent record, but somehow it doesn’t really have any particularly excellent songs on it. What makes it so great is the character Waits plays and the world that character inhabits. It’s just so wickedly funny, heart-warmingly sweet, and heart-breakingly sad that it’s hard not to get some enjoyment out this record.
Is it the best Tom Waits album ever? I wouldn’t say so. Is it the most fun and laughs I’ve had with a Tom Waits album? Definitely.
This deliciously humorous piano ramble is, in my opinion, one of the shining stand-out tracks from 1975’s ‘Nighthawks At The Diner’.
- Blue Valentine – Tom Waits (ljfacesthemusic.wordpress.com)
- Closing Time – Tom Waits (ljfacesthemusic.wordpress.com)
- Rolling Stones Feature Tom Waits on ‘Little Red Rooster’ (rollingstone.com)