Saturday, August 28, 2010

Michael Fremer Album Review

Glitter and Doom Live (new release)
Tom Waits
Anti 87053-1 2 180g LPs + MP3 download
Produced by: Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan
Engineered by: Karl Derfler
Mixed by: Karl Derfler
Mastered by: Gavin Lurssen at Lurssen Mastering
Lacquer cutting: ??????



Waits Live In Ten Cities

by Michael Fremer

If you go for Waits’s “Louis Armstrong meets Screamin’ Jay Hawkins meets Captain Beefheart” blues/jazzbo thing, obtaining it live or recorded live is probably as pure as it gets and arguably the best way to consume an artist energized by the crowd’s adulation and an adept touring backup band capable of creating thick, churning atmospherics.

Waits inhabits a mythical 50’s waterfront circus tent filled with sailors, longshoremen, midgets and freaks. He’s part Kurt Weill and part Tod Browning. And part Vaudeville and Tin Pin Alley too. His fans eat it up on this set recorded during his sold out “Glitter and Doom” international tour.

He sings movies on stage here backed by a superb band capable of painting effervescent backdrops that break free of the instrumental confines and spring to life. I don’t how he puts his throat though such torture and comes out singing on the other side.

He abandons the deep growl occasionally to reveal a rich upper register and certain vibrato unharmed by the clenched throat antics. On “I’ll Shoot the Moon,” he manages to hit the high parts, descend into the deepest two-dimensional gravel (sometimes sounding like Robbie Robertson) and come up sounding like Bert Lahr!

He’s part field hand, part city slicker, part Mr. Sincerity and part bullshit shtick seller. Sometimes it sounds as if he’s just doing a cutting Bruce Springsteen parody, as on “Falling Down.” Of course Springsteen appropriately covered Wait’s “Jersey Girl” originally on his 1980 release Heartattack and Vine.

Waits combines the over the top impish humor and occasional darkness with heartbreaking sincerity as on the tender closer “Some Lucky Day.” If you want to hear Waits at his heartbreaking best though, listen to “Day After Tomorrow” from Real Gone.

The double live album was culled from performances recorded in Tulsa, Atlanta, Knoxville, Jacksonville, Milan, Edinburgh, Dublin and Paris. Call me prejudiced but I simply don’t think of Tulsa when I think of Tom Waits.

Waits is “an acquired taste” as they say about over the top artists. He sounds as if he’s burping up the songs as much as he’s singing them and the sense that he’s goofing all of it occasionally finds its way to the surface. He’s certainly having fun and the audience is too. His rap about buying Henry Ford’s last breath on Ebay is hilarious.

The sound is consistently cavernous, dark and echo-y, as if the band is playing at the back of the stage and you’re sitting near the back of the room. There’s not much air and not much sparkle and while that may be because of technical limitations, the sonics are perfectly suited to the subject matter, though even the hand claps sound thick.

I’m sure this was recorded on a computer, hopefully at high resolution and transferred to lacquer from those files. Given the wide range of venues, the sound is remarkably consistent, though “audiophile quality” it’s not. For that go back to the superlative Small Change album recorded live to two track analog by either Wally Heider or Bones Howe. I can't say which because I've misplaced my original promo copy. Damn. Where’s the all-analog reissue of that gem?

Thanks to Michael over at for the exclusive rights to reprint this material.

Copyright © 2008 & Michael Fremer - All rights reserved Reprinted by Permission

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