Thursday, December 4, 2008
What Did Tom Waits Do To You?
Really, what did Tom Waits do to attract this attention?
Always a popular source of cover song material, our long-distance drinking buddy Tom (we drink and he stays a long distance away) has been the subject of two recent tribute/vanity projects of varying degrees of success/listenability.
The most infamous of these two outings was that large, festering heap of whale excrement known as "Anywhere I Lay My Head" by noted sexpot actress Scarlett Johansson.
As a friend asked (and I paraphrase to avoid offending nearly everyone), "What personal talents did this young lady exhibit to persuade a struggling music industry to give her an album?" Obviously, it was not Ms. Johansson's musical talents. The album is truly unlistenable. Whenever I am forced to listen to such drivel, I feel like scratching the inside of my eyelids. It is simply that bad.
For the masochists out there, I humbly offer the following:
The other 2008 Tom Waits tribute album is the intriguing "Grapefruit Moon: The Songs Of Tom Waits" by Southside Johnny. In this Big Band jazz interpretation of various Waits tunes, Southside Johnny, who once rode the Jersey Shore musical wave following the Springsteen tsunami, is joined by Richie "La Bamba" Rosenberg, a former Asbury Juke and current member of the Max Weinberg 7. Rosenberg arranged and produced this lush, Nelson Riddle-like album with a heavy emphasis on the horn section. The results are surprisingly sublime - a rare jewel.
Perhaps the most surprising part of this whole trend is Waits' tolerance of such offerings. Waits is well-known for not allowing his songs to be used for commercials and ready to get litigious on Madison Avenue's derriere when it does. However, he apparently allows anyone who wonders into a recording studio to sing his songs.
Other Waits tribute albums have come from Holly Cole, John Hammond and an obscure, but well worth the search, 2000 compilation entitled a "New Coat of Paint," where Neko Case does a wonderfully bluesy "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis."
For your listening pleasure, I offer three great versions of "Jockey Full of Bourbon" - covers by John Hammond, Los Lobos and the original from the main himself.