Tom Waits can never be accused of trying to sound like anyone else in modern music. Waits’ unusual mesh of roots influences and Americana is truly unique. On his new live CD Glitter And Doom, recorded in music halls around the globe, he delivers each song like it’s a defining moment in the show.
Waits opens with a sledgehammer break. “Lucinda-Ain’t Goin’ Down” bounds through the speakers with a lilting beat and the crooner’s incredibly husky rasp. From the beginning we know that Waits is serious, earthy, organic, real. A blend of modern and traditional instruments create a sound that feels like a fresh interpretation of yesteryear.
“Singapore” follows with a soft brush beat and enticing reed organ and saxophone that makes me think of cabaret. His vocal gymnastics on the chorus reminds us that he’s a talented singer underneath the character actor approach to singing.
“Get Behind The Mule” is a six and a half minute treat that never runs out of Waits’ charm and his band’s musical energy never tires. Vincent Henry plays woodwinds, saxes, harmonica, and guitar. Omar Torez plays guitar, cigar box banjo, and mandolin. Casey Waits drums. Patrick Warren plays piano, reed organ, chamberlain and mellotron. Seth Ford-Young plays stand-up bass, and Sullivan Waits guests on saxophone and clarinet.
“Goin’ Out West” bops along at a steady gallop with forlorn guitar notes punctuating the moving beat. Wait’s husky rasp augments his band while his band augments him. Always a superb singer-songwriter and recording artist, with a live band, Waits fleshes out his visions and breaths new life into his tunes. “Falling Down” is a calliope of mellifluous sax notes, cocktail lounge piano playing, jazzy organ chords, and blues drumming. Waits then makes his husky voice sound beautiful and mournful over this stew of old time melodies.
Glitter And Doom could easily sound like an old concert recording to someone unfamiliar with Waits’s music. Always sounding like he belongs to another time, Waits’ vintage sound is so authentic that it’s easy for the listener to feel like he’s listening to a recording made in a 1920s jazz cafe, a 1930s cabaret orchestra pit, or maybe even a Mississippi juke joint.
When Waits slows things down, as he does on “The Part You Throw Away,” it becomes impossible not to appreciate each member of his band. The soft brush on the drums is quite tasteful. The mellotron could be mistaken for an art house film score. The sax blows quietly from another time. The rhythm guitar plays intricate patterns with snappy precision. Above it all, Waits’s thick rasp finds its moments to start, pause, and sustain with theatrical flair.
“Trampled Rose” continues the use of old fashioned instruments, stand-up bass, reed organ, and woodwinds. It might remind the listener of anything from cabaret to a carnival organ. “Metropolitan Glide” sounds like modern swing with its electric guitar chord, horn blasts, and thumping rhythm section. The radio station programmers may have no use for him, but listeners with taste will always gravitate to his talent.
There is a second disc here titled “Tom Tales”, which is a collection of some of the stories he liked to deliver between songs. It is a neat addition. But the music matters most. When his rough voice shows range, holds a note, and even softens, Waits makes clear he can tackle any genre that appeals to him. Glitter And Doom is even more fun than Waits’ 2008 release Orphans. It presents the energy flowing between him and his fans in nine different cities. That energy is what defines the greatest live albums. Without realizing it. at this time, Waits has created a must-have live album that will stand among the greatest live albums ever.