Tom Waits is an American singer/songwriter who has been active in the music industry since 1971. I first found out about Waits about a week or two ago when I found out that Tim Buckley recorded a version of Waits’ song, “Martha”, for Buckley’s album, Sefronia (1973). Waits was influenced by a number of musicians, including the likes of Ray Charles, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Roy Orbison, and Bob Dylan. This album, Closing Time (1973), is Waits’ debut album, which contains the original version of the song Tim Buckley, as well as a song that the Eagles covered. Though the album was well-received by critics, it never made the charts. However, in decades since the album’s release, the album has been certified Gold in the United Kingdom. I’m pretty stoked to give this album a listen, so with that said, I’m going to jump on into the music.
“Ol’ 55” starts out with a solemn countdown from Waits. Holy smokes, a really sweet, bluesy jazz-club piano enters the soundscape, and has me leaning closer to my speakers already. Oh wow, I really dig the folksy accentuations to the piano from the acoustic guitar. Waits’ vocals come in with an almost nasally sound somewhat reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s typical vocal style. Oh wow, there are some really sweet gospel chorus background vocals that gently reverberate behind the piano. Oh wow, I really dig the bluesy folksy lines from the acoustic guitar. Wow, super sweet track, and I’m excited to hear more.
“I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love with You” starts out with a count up from Waits, which is followed up by some really interesting tin-y guitar lines, which is backed by some really sweet bass guitar, and there also sounds like there might be a piano mixed in somewhere as well. Oh wow, there are some really sweet organs/keyboards in the background that almost sound like some folksy bagpipes in the soundscape. I really dig the sweet acoustic guitar lines from the other side of the soundscape from the other guitar; the main guitar almost sounds like an electrified acoustic or possibly a hollow-body electric guitar. Wow, great tune.
“Virginia Avenue” starts out with some really groovy jazz bass notes, which are followed by some sort of bluesy jazz piano. Holy smokes, there’s a really interesting trumpet that makes the soundscape feel like some mid 1950s bluesy jazz song. Holy smokes, the guitar work in the track almost brings in a sort of country feel. Holy smokes, the drums come in with a bluesy beat, and the track has formed into some more mellow, experimental blues-lead fusion of genres that I really dig. Wow, great track.
Holy smokes, “Old Shoes (Picture Postcards)” starts out with some really folksy acoustic guitar chords that remind me a ton of Roger McGuinn’s self-titled debut solo album from 1973. Oh wow, the drums and bass have a really sweet country folk feel to them, and the vocals have a really interesting country twang reminiscent of artists like Kris Kristofferson. Oh wow, there’s a really sweet, country folk acoustic guitar solo for a moment. Wow, great track.
“Midnight Lullaby” starts out with some mellow jazz chords on a piano, which are accompanied by some super bluesy jazz trumpet that has me inching closer to my speakers. Oh wow, I really dig the almost country-tone of the mellow electric guitar work, which seems to accentuate the playing from the piano and trumpet. The vocals have a laid-back, almost silky timbre that seems to have a smooth jazz feel with a bit of a bluesy inflection. Oh wow, the piano begins playing what sounds to be a lullaby for the outro movement of the song, and the electric guitar adds some really sweet accentuations as the track comes to a mellow close. Great tune.
“Martha” starts out with some really sweet, bright piano work that rings out really nicely into the soundscape. Oh wow, I really dig the sort of conversational, nasally tone of Waits’ vocals, which almost have a sort of jazz-inflected Bob Dylan sound. Oh wow, there are some orchestral strings that enter and add an almost baroque feel to the soundscape that I’m really digging. Holy smokes, some really sweet background vocals come in that almost sound like a church choir of sorts. Wow, super sweet tune.
“Rosie” gets started with some really mellow piano chords, which is soon joined by some folksy acoustic guitar. Holy smokes, the vocals almost give the tune a country feel, which is accentuated when the pedal steel guitar and country beat comes into the soundscape. Holy smokes, the tune has a really sweet country ballad feel as the music continues. I really dig the gentle feel of both the drums and the acoustic guitar strumming. Oh wow, the drums picks up a bit in intensity as the track breaks through to another chorus. Wow, super sweet track.
“Lonely” starts out with some warm, mellow piano chords that at first make me think a bit of Keith Jarrett. Oh wow, piano has a sort of solemn, bluesy feel that are complemented really nicely by the smooth, bluesy/jazz style of Waits’ vocals in this track. Wow, great tune.
“Ice Cream Man” starts out with some really sweet, high notes on a piano that almost sound like some baroque rework of a song you might hear coming from an ice cream truck. Holy smokes, the track picks up into a sort of rock and roll skiffle-sounding movement as the drums come in and the piano changes up into more of a rhythmic instrument, and the electric guitar comes in with some really groovy rock and roll licks that almost seem to have been influenced by the rock styles of the late 1960s. Oh wow, the final movement of the track is from a celeste/bell-piano, which plays a really sweet lullaby of sorts. Super sweet track.
“Little Trip to Heaven (On the Wings of Your Love)” gets started with a mixture of bluesy jazz trumpet, some mellow, bluesy, jazz piano chords, some really interesting accentuations from an electric guitar that almost has a sort of country sound. This song really seems to fit the name of the album really nicely, with some sweet, somewhat solemn sounds from instrumentation while the vocals bring more smooth, sweet, bluesy jazz flavors as well. Great tune.
“Grapefruit Moon” starts out with some really sweet, bluesy jazz piano. Oh wow, there are some orchestral strings that enter the soundscape that bring about a sort of mellow baroque pop feel that reminds me a bit of Scott Walker; the orchestral strings meld really nicely with the bluesy jazz piano. Holy smokes, the orchestral strings take a bit of a folksy turn for a moment before resolving back to the mellow baroque pop feel that complements the bluesy jazz piano really nicely. Wow, super sweet track.
“Closing Time” begins with a bit of studio chatter, and soon some really sweet, warm piano enters the soundscape. Holy smokes, some really sweet orchestral strings and the trumpet both enter around the same time, and both of them seem to be accentuating the bluesy jazz piano. Holy smokes, the trumpet begins to diverge a bit and play some really sweet, mellow, bluesy jazz lines. Oh wow, the orchestral strings add in their own sweet, diverging bluesy jazz lines as the trumpet seemingly pauses for a moment. Oh wow, the cello/bass guitar comes in near the end and seems to further accentuate the piano. Holy smokes, the track ends with a really sweet line from the piano, trumpet, and I think orchestral strings as well. Wow, great track, and a great way to finish the album.
Holy smokes, I’m glad that I listened to this album tonight. I saw on the Wikipedia page for either Tom Waits or this album itself that it has gained a contemporary following in recent years, and I can understand how. The blending of genres throughout feels seamless; the focus seems to be more of a bluesy jazz feel, but the music explores into folk, country, baroque pop, and even rock and roll territory at times. If you’re into both folk music and smooth bluesy jazz, then you might want to consider checking out this album. If you do decide to give this album a listen, then I sincerely do hope that you enjoy the listening experience at least as much as I did.