Archive for Tom Waits

Songs from the Vault – “lockdown” special

My last SFTV was in October so there’s been plenty of time to think about what tunes I should include in this edition.  Often the tunes I include don’t represent what I’m listening to at the time of going to press.  This time round, however, it ticks both boxes:  SFTV and tunes that I’ve been appreciating in the so-called “lockdown”…

First up is Martha from Tom Wait’s 1973 debut album, Closing Time.  The song is a phone call from ‘old Tom Frost’ to Martha.  It’s been forty years since they last spoke and old Tom is in reflective mood, perhaps pining for a past that never came to be.  The song is a perfect combination of prose and music.  Waits started his career playing in bars in San Diego and one can imagine him in the corner hunkered over the old reverberating piano.  Tunes like this are few and far between.

We’re going to jump to 1990 to another debut album, Ride’s Nowhere.  The last track, Vapour Trail, is probably their most known tune.  Back in 1990 I didn’t pay much attention to Ride though the album cover always intrigued me.  It more than passes the test of time and belongs in any ‘shoegazing’ playlist.

Total change of gear and genre.  I didn’t know the next tune – I Wish I Knew – until a few months ago, having covered it in a piano lesson; it’s a well known (though not to me!) jazz standard, featuring for example on John Coltrane’s Ballads album.  When learning a new tune I try and listen to numerous versions of it, this time coming across Jimmy Scott’s version. I’ll admit to being a bit confused when I first heard it; is Jimmy Scott the producer rather than the singer?  My confusion arose from the fact that Scott suffered from a rare genetic disorder that prevented him from reaching puberty and limited his growth.  While he grew taller when he hit his forties his voice remained in the contralto range.  Regardless, it’s a wonderful performance of a wonderful song, and Scott has some serious heavyweight backing in the band, which features greats including Ron Carter and Eric Gale.

I’ve never included any Nick Drake in SFTV.  Shame on me.  To put that wrong right our next tune is From the Morning, a personal favourite, which features on Drake’s third and final album from 1972, Pink Moon.  It’s very likely that you’ve heard it before; I’m sure it’s featured in various adverts over the years.  It’s just Drake and his guitar, for 150 seconds.  Magical.

I’m going to call it a day there.  I hope you’ll enjoy these tunes as much as I do.



Songs from the Vault

I enjoyed doing the previous ‘songs from the vault’ post so much, as did some of you, that I thought I’d do another one.  As before, there aren’t any themes, just good tunes that you may or may not know.

First up is Picture in a Frame by Tom Waits, off of his highly rated 1999 album, Mule Variations.  The song is dripping with a timeless quality.  You could easily imagine hearing it in an old Clint Eastwood western.  You can hear the creaking of the piano bench before Waits plays and you can almost feel the sun clawing its way through the wooden beams of a frontier dwelling. Well, that’s what comes to my mind anyway.  See what you think…

Next up is Stephanie Says, recorded in 1968 by the Velvet Underground.  It’s a simple but perfectly constructed tune and one of their best, featuring, amongst others, Lou Reed on vocals, John Cale on viola and, I think, Cale on glockenspiel.  I first heard it on the soundtrack to the film The Royal Tennenbaums both of which are well worth checking out.

Winding the clock forwards 40 years to 2008 we have Polmont on my mind by the Glaswegian band, Glasvegas.  The song relates to the band’s experience of the young offenders institute in Polmont, Falkirk, having played there.  The song has a massive sound that grows even bigger as the song moves into its anthemic climax (at around the three minute mark for the impatient amongst you!).  The rest of their eponymous 2008 album is equally good (well almost) and is well worth a listen.

15 miles south east of Glasgow is Motherwell, the birth place of The Delgados.  Their album The Great Eastern (2000) included some cracking tunes.  My pick of the bunch is the subdued and minimalistic Make your move.  Like Stephanie Says, the classic band line-up is complemented by other instruments, this time by flute and dobro.  Not that you’d really noticed, everything is as it should be and in service of the song.

Continuing along the slightly melancholy path of these tunes, but recognising that Christmas is almost upon us, it’d be remiss of me not to include something Christmassy.  A Charlie Brown Christmas first appeared on U.S. television screens in 1965.  The TV special, like the animated show, features the music of the Vince Guaraldi trio, a jazz piano trio based in San Francisco.  The soundtrack includes a mixture of traditional Christmas songs and Guaraldi’s own compositions.  It’s these originals which make the album and have become classics, including Linus and Lucy and Skating.  The stand out track, which I first heard on the previously mentioned Royal Tennenbaums soundtrack, is Christmas Time is Here.  The Guaraldi-penned tune has been covered by a veritable who’s who list of singers including Tony Bennett and the mighty Kenny Loggins!  You don’t need to know any more than that.

It remains for me to say have a Happy Christmas and I hope you continue reading in 2017.