Review Summary: Second album by the the world's most beloved Mad Hatter, who already began running away from lucrative soft, country rock and turning to truly maverick, a little bit beatnik, punk and tramp. Attention: Not for daily use.
In 1974, Tom Waits had it all: acclaimed "Closing Time", contract on one of the then most influent labels, Asylum, whose boss was David Geffen, The Eagles covered his song "Ol' 55", which endeared Waits to wider audience. The only problem was that Tom Waits didn't want to do country rock and he didn't want to be part of the mainstream. He felt closer to the underground heroes, the same ones who would been later written and sung by him. Waits felt free between stadium rock of The Eagles and Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young and not so commercial boho country folk jazz he chose latter.
Recorded with jazz trio (drums, bass and tenor sax) with some decent orchestra here and there, this album is pretty unified, the most memorable track is "Diamonds On My Windshield", not because of its quality but because of its aggressive bass and rhythm, more characteristic for Waits' Island phase and here is totally out of place. The rest of the album is piano dominated and more conventionally sounding, the best tracks are country influenced "San Diego Serenade", "Shiver Me Timbers" and title track. Though very gentle, they are intense, passionate and vivid. They are anthems for all losers, lonely ones and late night philosophers (sometimes we are all losers, lonely ones or late night philosophers, so these songs are pretty universal). And Waits sang his heart out, but the best par is decently foot tapping in manner of John Lee Hooker. Also nice ones are swinging ballads "Please Call Me Baby" and "Depot, Depot". I may be biased but I believe that the best Waits' songs are the ones which are firmly country-folk drenched. Jazzy stuff here is okay but he is so honest and direct, although "New Coat of Paint", "Fumblin' With The Blues" and closing "The Ghosts of The Saturday Night" caught the ear as well. Particularly "New Coat Of Paint" and "Fumblin' With The Blues" would have sounded more strident with some good rock guitar, maybe with arrangement in that direction. Well, I am not quite sure Major Tom would like it. He didn't want to be part of commercial world, even successfully sued those companies who tried to use his impersonators and songs very similar to his songs.
"The Heart Of The Saturday Night" is great late night album. So, If you listen to it in car, or in day time, it loses its part of the charm. It could be tiring, boring, even disturbing. So it can be extremely enjoyable if you listen to it in the dark room or in iPod during late night time walk.
Overall, this album is not easy listen, but once it captures you, it never releases you.