Tom Waits - Small Change
(Rhino / Asylum)
In the first wave of Tom Waits personas, roughly 1972-1982, Small Change stands as his finest achievement in his time as a beat-hobo-jazz-loving drunken balladeer. In 1976, he was well into his contract with Asylum and was beginning to gain an audience after steadily increasing sales on his previous 3 records.
Again recorded and produced by Bones Howe, Small Change wallows in a dilapidated world of alcoholics, strippers, hard-luck dudes, night owls and the forgotten losers of late night Los Angeles. However Waits painted these characters in a different light. Sure, they wouldn’t amount to much but Waits gave them life and an endearing glow. Humor plays a large role on Small Change as well. On “The Piano Has Been Drinking,” Waits is not the only one who sounds sloshed (the piano itself is wrecked) and on “Step Right Up,” Waits assumes the role of an aggressive, fast-talking, hard-selling salesman with a blitz of ad-man type lingo that’s as comical as it is desperate.
Musically, it’s a pretty sparse record with Waits mostly at the piano and Howe dropping in tasteful and minimal string accompaniment. A highlight is the appearance of legendary jazz drummer Shelly Manne who contributes stellar rhythm work on a selection of tracks most notable on the finger-snapping “Step Right Up.” Now in stock on colored vinyl and remastered with oversight by Waits himself. (Dom)
Check out a track here.