Friday, January 21, 2011

339 The Heart of Saturday Night. From the bowels of friday evening.

Album: The Heart of Saturday Night
Artist: Tom Waits
Year: 1974
Genre: Jazz


  1. New Coat of Paint
  2. San Diego Serenade
  3. Semi Suite
  4. Shiver Me Timbers
  5. Diamonds on My Windshield
  6. (Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night
  7. Fumblin' with the Blues
  8. Please Call Me, Baby
  9. Depot, Depot
  10. Drunk on the Moon
  11. The Ghosts of Saturday Night (After Hours at Napoleone's Pizza House)

Regular readers of this blog will know that Tom Waits has been my greatest discovery of the countdown so far. I've come to love all things Tom and get really excited when I see his name appearing on the countdown. The Heart of Saturday Night is the highest placed Waits album in this list and also the earliest of his releases to get a mention. And it's yet another incidence when I disagree with the voters who made this list. Don't get me wrong I really like Heart but to my mind it's not nearly as interesting as later Waits. His signature voice is there and you can tell it's Tom but there is more of an emphasis on balladry and bar-room piano crooning than the weirdness of his later efforts. It sounds like Tom but unlike his later albums it doesn't sound like only Tom could do it. Mule Variations is the sort of release that could only come from the mind of Tom Waits. Other people could have recorded The Heart of Saturday Night, it wouldn't sound quite the same but they could have done it.

Waits never turned his back on this more conventional approach to music writing when he branched out into whatever the hell his latter career is. Every album he's released that I've heard has featured at least a couple of tunes that feature Tom at his piano sharing his blues with the world. I just prefer these songs in amongst the rest of Waits' output rather than gathered together in the one place. I'm also not a huge fan of the string backing that accompany too many of the tracks. I prefer to think of Waits as a lone figure sitting at a piano in the corner of a bar room somewhere. He could maybe be joined by a drummer and a bass player as long as they're both decripit figures with whiskey on their breath and nicotine-stained fingers. The image of a string quartet sitting around dressed nicely and playing polished instruments just doesn't gel with Waits for me.

My favourite track on Heart is definitely Diamonds on the Windsheild in which Tom weaves a fantastic visual image of life driving through America. The line "Colder than a well-diggers ass" is worth the album price alone.

There's not really bad track on Heart but there's nothing that stands out for me like songs did on other Waits releases.

Highlight: Diamonds on the Windshield.
Lowlight: Depot, Depot

Influenced by: Sinatra and whiskey
Influenced: Bar rooms all over the world.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "If you cant find a spot in your collection for this disc - you may as well start collecting stamps."

-The presumption here appears to be that philatelists have no taste in music. Odd.

So does this really capture the heart of Saturday night or is it more indicative of the spleen of Wednesday around lunchtime? Let me know below.

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