Tom Waits
Blue Valentine


4.5
superb

Review

by Stephen Horvath (Scuba_Steve) USER (5 Reviews)
July 26th, 2006 | 21 replies | 19,840 views


Release Date: 1978 | Tracklist


2 of 2 thought this review was well written

Tom Waits is known as the gravel-throated singer/songwriter that many people seem not to "get". Very little negative has been said about Mr.Waits, but at the same time, many people pass him off as one of those artists that fall into the "They write good music, it’s just not for me" catagory. At times it’s very easy to see why. But in this, his 1978 album "Blue Valentine" he exhibits some of the elements that make people class him as "Not for them" but he hasn’t yet graduated into complete oddity, writing mainly heartfelt ballads and amusing anecdotes and avoiding strange instrumentation and experimentation.

The album starts off with the ballad "Somewhere" from West Side story. This song shows off Wait’s wonderful singing voice when it’s not over the top gravelly, as it is during other songs on this album. It opens the album nicely, and the lyrics are quite welcoming
"Somewhere a place for us
Peace and quiet and open air
Wait for us"- Somewhere (From A West Side Story)

It’s a nice song but its not one I would listen to on it’s own. It’s one of those songs that add to an album but don't really stand on their own. However, The following songs are all anecdotal in lyrical content, but a lot of them are also sung like ballads, conveying the emotions of the characters in the stories. These characters allow each track to be played individually and still get the feeling listening to a whole album would give you.

"Red Shoes By The Drugstore" is one of these songs, the story won’t be spoiled because after all half the fun of listening to Tom Waits is figuring out the story he tells in each of his songs. This song has little instrumentation, simply Tom’s voice singing over bass and percussion.This is probably the best way because use of extravagant orchestration would have probably damaged this song’s emotional content, as it would if many of his other songs.

The next song again is simply Tom Wait’s voice over his brilliant piano playing. It conjures images of an empty bar, save one or two people sharing stories of their youth. But "Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis" is probably best described as simply one of the most brilliant Tom Waits has ever released, hell, he could have released it as simply poetry and it still would have a huge impact on his fans.
"I wish I had all the money
That we used to spend on dope
I'd buy me a used car lot
And I wouldn't sell any of em
I'd just drive a different car
Every day, depending on how
I feel"- Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis

"Romeo Is Bleeding" seems to lack compared to the previous song, it tries to conjure images of 50’s era mobsters but it seems to try a bit too hard. Even though it gives great character development on Romeo’s part it lacks some of the story telling his other songs have. Sure, Romeo seems like a man no one wants to bump into at night, but the plot lines in Wait’s music are what keeps many coming back. Unfortunately, this is a weak spot.

Luckily, "$29.00" is a huge improvement. This song has a very bluesey feel thanks to the guitar which fits this story (or song, depending on how you listen) perfectly. It also features by far the richest story on this album, telling a story about a little Black Girl with only "29$ and an Alligator Purse" you can guess how that one turns out on your own.

Taking a brief break from the storytelling, "Wrong Side of the Road" is Tom Wait’s weirdness in full swing (Unless "put a dead cat on the railroad tracks" is something you listen to normally). Oddly enough, it ends up being a love song. It’s weird, yes, but it isn’t so weird as to make it un-listenable. It’s a song easily eclipsed by other songs like "Christmas Card…" and "29.00" but it’s a nice addition to the album. After all, you gotta let your brain calm down sometime during the album.

"Whistling past the Graveyard" is another oddity, but it paints a clear picture in one’s mind. It seems just to be a blues song made to show the personality of the singer. This song would probably be amazing live, but it isn’t so great on the album. It’s mighty catchy but the lyrical content is rather sketchy. If Tom Waits was the type to populate MTV or other music television, this song would make a great video or such due to the VERY strong image it paints. It also brings memories of John Lee Hooker’s "I’m Bad Like Jessie James" because of the hardass character it shows.

It’s storytelling time again kids, "Kentucky Avenue" brings back the character development and plot of other songs on the album, which is the best part really. It also reverts to simply Tom and a piano, giving it a more personal feel. It’s a song about teenage fun, and memories of being a teenager and having reckless fun. It’s a calm song that brings images that nearly everyone could remember, making it a really nice heartfelt ballad.

Going from calm to weird, again. "A Sweet Little Bullet from A Pretty Blue Gun" demonstrates the weirdness that Tom will become related to later in his career. This is the sort of the song with the strange instrumentation that people will hear on his albums Rain Dogs or Swordfishtrombones. The song seems to be about suicide, but mixes the storytelling concept in with it quite well. Telling the story of a girl "with nothing in her jeans". It’s Probably one of the best songs on the album.

And finally, the album closes with the title track "Blue Valentines". It’s a song about heartbreak. Or rather, the memory of heartbreak. It has only Tom, a guitar and a bass, but that’s all it needs. The lyrics are very well written, even if written a bit more traditionally than other songs. It’s still a great listen and is one of the songs where Tom Waits doesn’t mask himself as a character and just writes a song using his own emotions. Very fitting of the final song to basically summarize most of the other songs also.

Quick Recap
Pros- Very raw and emotional, great storytelling

Cons- A lot of the non-story songs lack the instrumentation that his later work had, sometimes making them slightly boring

Highlight Tracks
"Christmas Card from A Hooker in Minneapolis", "$29.00" and "A Sweet Little Bullet from A Pretty Blue Gun"

Overall 4.5/5- Aside from small imperfections, this is an amazing album. One of Tom Wait’s best for sure.


user ratings (172)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
Jake Cole (3)
A slight move away from Waits' predictable early routine, "Blue Valentine" boasts some of the artist...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Zebra
Moderator
July 26th 2006



2647 Comments


I read through most of this review and you did a good job, but you might want to fix the odd grammar errors. I haven't heard this Waits album but everything that I have listened to by him is spectacular.

Scuba_Steve
July 26th 2006



46 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks for the pointers, I'll go over this tommorow when it's not so fresh in my head.


also, is the punctuation thing to stop hackers? cause it looks really bad.

Two-Headed Boy
July 27th 2006



4527 Comments


Pretty nice review. Tom Waits is wonderful.

STLMiguel
July 27th 2006



335 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This is actually one of my least favorite Waits albums ... "Christmas Card" is obviously a highlight, but this was just sort of an awkward part of his career. It is still good, though, and I'm glad I own it.

Good stuff.

Sepstrup
July 28th 2006



1563 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I have this album, but haven't listened to it that much, because I bought Mule Variations at the same time, and that's taken up most of my time. I'm not that fond of the first track, but all-in-all it seems to be a pretty good album, but sub-standard compared to the Waits albums I own.

AlienEater
July 28th 2006



716 Comments


I'm pretty interested in this Tom Waits fellow, but know almost nothing about him. Which album is the best starting point?

Sepstrup
July 28th 2006



1563 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Rain Dogs if you ask me. It's his best album (that I've heard so far). Unless you want to get into the more "normal" Tom Waits, then you might want to try out Closing Time. But his stuff from Swordfishtrombones and onwards is where he really seperates himself from the rest of the artists out there.

You can start by listening to the free samples here: http://www.sputnikmusic.com/band/Tom+Waits

Then buy Rain Dogs

STLMiguel
July 28th 2006



335 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

No, no, get Mule Variations! *cheap plug for my own review*

Sepstrup
July 28th 2006



1563 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Even if Mule Variations is better (which I don't think it is), it's less accessible, don't you think?

It doesn't matter anyway. Once you get one Tom Waits album, you'll have to buy all of them as soon as soon as possible. You could also check out Bone Machine *cheap plug like STL*This Message Edited On 07.28.06

AlienEater
July 28th 2006



716 Comments


"Rain Dogs" sounds interesting. Maybe I'll get that first.

STLMiguel
July 28th 2006



335 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I personally like Mule over Rain Dogs because of how it acts almost like a summary of Tom's career. You have the super, super crazy songs right next to the ulta, ultra sappy ballads. And Rain Dogs hasn't been remastered like it should be ... if nothing else Mule sounds better.

Scuba_Steve
July 28th 2006



46 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I think most of his album have at least one sappy ballad.


Rain Dogs had hang down your head, Swordfishtrombones had Johnsburg, Illinois. And those are probably the most "out there" waits albums I've heard.

STLMiguel
July 28th 2006



335 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I was never saying that wasn't true. Even The Black Rider has "I'll Shoot the Moon."
But Mule Variations is practically half and half. And the ballads are ultra sappy on
Mule Variations, just like the insane songs are ultra crazy. It shows the two sides
of Waits perfectly.This Message Edited On 07.28.06

Scuba_Steve
July 28th 2006



46 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah, I've been meaning to get mule variations because Ive heard alot said about it

Sepstrup
July 30th 2006



1563 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Go watch him perform Chocolate Jesus on Letterman. You can find it at youtube.com

Sepstrup
August 8th 2006



1563 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

So, my opion on this album. It's good, definitely. Not a 4,5 for me, but a good album nonetheless. I don't like the first song, but I enjoy pretty much the rest of them. There isn't a single track that I would call a Tom Waits classic, though.

voodooramen
October 3rd 2006



14 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Christmas card.." is an a amazing song, from an amazing artist. This song alone really makes the album worth it for me. "Romeo" and "$29.00" are also good songs.

Good review.

jeffklassen881
June 15th 2008



3 Comments


"Kentucky Avenue" conveys the sort of complex nostalgia that few artists except for Waits can pull off ("I'll steal a hacksaw from my dad / Cut the braces off your legs / And we'll bury them tonight / In the cornfield..."). It is masterful, and yet it is perhaps oddly out-of-place in the context of every other song on this recording. It fits nicely somewhere between "On the Nickel" and "Ruby's Arm's" (which soon followed).

upagainstthewall
March 19th 2009



838 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i love somewhere. its a great version of the song.

Meatplow
October 23rd 2009



5524 Comments


One of my least listened to Waits albums. I should do something about that.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy