On the Radio (FELL 06)
Recording/Performance Date December 14, 1976, Media Sound Studio, New York, NY
Track List: 1. Emotional Weather Report 2. A Sight for Sore Eyes3. Step Right Up 4. Eggs & Sausage/Invitation to the Blues 5. Jitterbug Boy 6. Diamonds on my Windshield 7. San Diego Serenade 8. Tom Traubert’s Blues 9. New Coat of Paint 10. The Piano has been Drinking (Not Me) 11. I Can’t Wait to get off Work
Tom Waits is one of those artists who seems to put it all into everything he does. Every album is 4 Stars, every performance is inspired. So it is a pity there is not more of his work represented in the underground market. Those of us who love his work are thankful to get our paws on whatever we can. This radio broadcast from 1976 is no exception. An outstanding release. First the sound quality is studio perfect. Every hum, key strike, drum stroke, and word is crisp and clear. You really feel like you are sitting right there in the studio. You can even hear Tom light a Cigarette. This clear sound adds to the intimacy of the performance. On most of the tracks it is just Tom Waits on piano and vocals. Ralph Ebler (I assume a studio musician, as he is not a Waits regular) does an excellent job of accenting and complimenting Waits performances with a simple snare drum. Second, the performance is gripping! Waits is such a genuine entertainer. His introductions to the songs are as entertaining as some of the lyrics. Examples: “Don’t Take a Train, Let the Train take You”; “Every now and then you just have to go to Cleveland. Wether you like it or not.” When asked about hanging around in a bar in NY he says “Must be my twin brother”. The interview is very entertaining and I have included the following link which transcribes the spoken interviews/introductions portion of this release.
Performance highlights would be “Emotional Weather Report”, a very wordy tune which is executed perfectly. “Step right up” is performed with vocals and finger snap only which makes Waits sound more like an auctioneer or carny vendor than on the album version, which includes a full band. “Eggs & Sausage” is combined with “Invitation to the Blues” for a very effective arrangement. “Jitterbug Boy” includes a short verse of the Stephen Foster standard “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair” and an extra final verse. “San Diego Serenade” is beautiful. “Tom Traubert’s” is closed with a short history of the “Waltzing Matilda” standard which inspired the chorus. “Piano has been Drinking” is perfectly off key. The entire performance is truly flawless. Waits is in perfect voice, for Tom Waits. At times he sounds like Louis Armstrong and at others he just moans or scats and grabs you by the heartstrings or the funny bone, and makes you listen! The disc is presented in a glossy cardboard foldout with nice photos all washed in a deep blue. This presentation suits the material, and seems to capture the feel of the show. This recording was made in December of 1976 at Media Sound studio in New York. Tom Waits was in town to perform at the Bottom Line. This was the tour in support of the Small Change album. Most of the songs performed are from that album, with several coming from Nighthawks at the Diner and Heart of Saturday Night. One tune “Sight for Sore Eyes” was yet unreleased at the time of this recording. This show was broadcast on December 18, 1976 as “Nighthawks in the studio”, and rebroadcast on March 24, 1996, both broadcasts were on WNEW-FM. This CD provides a rare look at early Tom Waits in a laid back setting with perfect sound. An inside look at a true artist. If you like Tom Waits – Get This. Definitely on my top 5 list of important releases this year. Thanks GoodFellas. J-BirdIf you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)