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Tom Waits – Bad As Me (2011)

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Tom Waits – Bad As Me (2011)

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01 - Chicago
02 - Raised Right Men
03 - Talking @ the Same Time
04 - Get Lost						play
05 - Face to the Highway
06 - Pay Me
07 - Back in the Crowd
08 - Bad as Me
09 - Kiss Me
10 - Satisfied
11 - Last Leaf
12 - Hell Broke Luce
13 - New Year's Eve
14 - After You Die					play
15. She Stole the Blush
16. Tell Me
17. After You Die

Tom Waits – vocals, guitar, piano, percussion, banjo, tablas, pump organ
Marc Ribot – guitar
Clint Maedgen – saxophone
Casey Waits – drums
David Hidalgo – guitar, violin, percussion, accordion, bass, background vocals
Ben Jaffe – trombone, bass clarinet, tuba
Charlie Musselwhite – harmonica
Patrick Warren – keyboards
James Whiton – bass
Keith Richards – guitar, vocals
Augie Meyers – vox organ, piano, accordion
Gino Robair – percussion, vibraphone
Larry Taylor – guitar, bass
Chris Grady – trumpet
Flea – bass
Will Bernard – guitar
Dawn Harms – violin
Marcus Shelby – bass
Les Claypool – bass
Zack Sumner – bass


Sixty-one-year-old artists releasing the 17th studio album of their careers have normally earned the right not to make things easy for anyone. That theory should go double for song men such as Tom Waits, a bloody-minded old goat not overly given to the vagaries of commerce or fashion. He sings with a gulletful of acid reflux. He wears hats like it's 1947. There is only the one (unofficial) dubstep remix of his work online and it's not half bad.

And yet Waits's latest album is a primer of what a reality TV show host might call his best bits. It is the sort of disc you can hand to a Waits novice or sceptic with the confidence that this collection of brawlers, bawlers and bastards (as he characterised the three-way split in his work on his 2006 compilation) will do the job of conversion. All Waits is here, more or less: the barfly, the romantic, the curmudgeon, the method actor and the self-parodist. Only the clangorous experimentalist of The Black Rider is missing. Laughing along with Waits isn't hard. "Yerrr the sayme kinda bad as muy!" he yowls on the lurid, cartoonish title track, keeping up the appearance of a dissolute lowlife despite being a happily partnered-up man whose missus helps him write this stuff. Indeed, the terrific second track rues the lack of men "raised right", like someone ringing into a 5 Live phone-in.

"Satisfied" is another hoot. Taking its cue from the infamous Rolling Stones track, Waits demands satisfaction, but more in the florid style of an 18th-century duellist. "Now Mr Jagger! And Mr Richards! I will scratch where I been itching!" he blusters, as the very same Mr Richards struts and frets conspiratorially along on his guitar. Having cropped up as a guest on previous Waits albums, Richards lends a hand on four songs here, and it's easy to imagine Waits as having written "Bad As Me" as a love song to this twin soul.

For all the excellent clowning around, Bad As Me is, chiefly, an album full of compassion, anger and sorrow – the stuff that puts Waits on the same page as upstanding Bruce Springsteen and the emotional surgeon Leonard Cohen, as well as bad old Nick Cave and professional drunks the Pogues. "Pay Me" tells the story of an exile with a woozy weep that sounds both sentimentally Irish and quintessentially French. "They pay me not to come home," Waits rasps stoically. There are compromised men hitting the road here, failed relationships starting again (in "Chicago"), and lovers trying to rekindle their spark. The terrific "Kiss Me" is all vinyl hiss and jazzy antiquity, with Waits doing his gruffest bluesman growl. The warmongers and bankers get it in the neck so hard, you can't help but punch the air. "Talking at the Same Time" rues the downward turn of the economy with restrained elegance, while "Hell Broke Luce" is a lot angrier – a Waits-own rap set to left-right marching and machine gunfire. Indeed, Bad As Me's 13 tracks fairly rip along, alerting a new generation that there are few as fine as Waits. ---Kitty Empire, guardian.co.uk

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