Posted: October 9th, 2008
A timeless live-in-studio performance by one of the most original artists of the past 30 years. This album has the distinctly bohemian feel of a smoky Greenwich village cafÃ© transplanted onto the blooming desert wasteland of the Los Angeles metropolitan region. His lyrics are random and poetic, sketching out shifty characters and strange misadventures straight out of Waits‘ “narcotic American night.” Jazz backed and swaggering, Waits lures you into his lurid underworld of all-night diners and forgotten truck stops. Nighthawks resounds with the intimacy of a small night club caught in the midst of an inspired after-hours session. Waits swings and rhymes over walking bass lines, lightly brushed cymbals, and breathy saxophones, creating an atmosphere heavy with smoke and the clang of empty bottles. Opening the album with a comically bleak “Emotional Weather Report,” Waits sets the tone of what is to follow, singing with self-effacing candor about his alcohol drenched loneliness and desperation. “Eggs & Sausage” aches beautifully with a hunger that can’t be satisfied by the greasy fare and heartburn of late-night dives.
He sings about obsessive love in “Nobody.” Despite his reluctant vulnerability, Waits is no sap, and his schtick is always that of the tough guy loner. He proclaims the virtues of his go-it-alone philosophy in “Better Off Without a Wife.” He tells epic tales of the bazaar, such as the engrossing “Ballad of Big Joe and Phantom 309.” Having packed the studio audience with sympathizers, Waits knows he is singing to the choir, as he launches into comic spoken-word interludes between songs that tear the house down. This is a great album for playing poker, shooting dice, or going on a lost-weekend tour through the underbelly of America. Waits’ genius and theatrical charm are in strong evidence, and at 70 minutes in length, the fun goes on and on. Throw away your books on tape and pop this into your deck!
- Tom Waits – Guitar, Piano, Vocals
- Pete Christlieb – Saxophone, Tenor Sax
- Lew Tabackin – Saxophone
- Jack Sheldon – Trumbet
- Jim Hugart – Bass
- Shelly Manne – Drums
- Opening Intro (2:59)
- Emotional Weather Report (3:43)
- Intro (2:18)
- On a Foggy Night (3:49)
- Intro (1:55)
- Eggs and Sausage (4:13)
- Intro (3:22)
- Better Off Without a Wife (3:53)
- Nighthawk Postcards (11:27)
- Intro (:55)
- Warm Beer and Cold Woman (5:21)
- Intro (:48)
- Putnam County (7:34)
- Spare Parts I (6:23)
- Nobody (2:49)
- Intro (:41)
- Ballad of Big Joe and Phantom 309 (6:30)
- Spare Parts II (And Closing) (5:14)
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