Tom Waits – Small Change

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

This is a wonderful album, considered by many to be Waits’s masterpiece. He’s backed with a real jazz combo here, including Lew Tabackin on sax and the great Shelley Manne on drums. Bones Howe does a great job gettin the kind of beatnik-jazz sound out of these songs that they need. On a copy like this, the presence and clarity are absolutely stunning!

According to Wikipedia, when asked in interview by Mojo magazine in 1999 if he shared many fans’ view that Small Change was the crowning moment of his “beatnik-glory-meets-Hollywood-noir period” (i.e. from 1973 to 1980), Waits replied:

Well, gee. I’d say there’s probably more songs off that record that I continued to play on the road, and that endured. Some songs you may write and record but you never sing them again. Others you sing em every night and try and figure out what they mean. “Tom Traubert’s Blues” was certainly one of those songs I continued to sing, and in fact, close my show with.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a top quality Singer Songwriter album. A few qualities to listen for:

Immediacy in the vocals (so many copies are veiled and distant);

Natural tonal balance (most copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; ones with the right balance are the exception, not the rule);

Good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful);

Spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space);

And last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this simple but sophisticated recording.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Tom Traubert’s Blues (Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen)
Step Right Up
Jitterbug Boy
I Wish I Was in New Orleans
The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)

Side Two

Invitation to the Blues
Pasties and a G-String
Bad Liver and a Broken Heart
The One That Got Away
Small Change
I Can’t Wait to Get off Work

AMG  Review

Small Change proves to be the archetypal album of his ’70s work. A jazz trio comprising tenor sax player Lew Tabackin, bassist Jim Hughart and drummer Shelly Manne, plus an occasional string section, back Waits and his piano on songs steeped in whiskey and atmosphere in which he alternately sings in his broken-beaned drunk’s voice (now deeper and overtly influenced by Louis Armstrong) and recites jazzy poetry.

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