Review Summary: A legend in the making, gets his feelings out with the beauty and grace of a drunkard, with the styling of a poet.
Tom Waits is a man who needs no introduction despite his shadows in the world of fame. He has surprisingly gone under the radar, much to the obscurity of someone like Frank Zappa. But this is an artist whom you really have to develop a taste for. A taste that really ages like fine wine. Upon my first listening to Waits, I looked down on him in disgust. How could this be passed off as music or even good, I thought. But it stuck with me and my eyes were opened to this artist of such high caliber. And there really is no other singer quite like him, I cannot really do this man any justice but I will sure try.
Foreign Affairs is an album that came out within a year of his album "Small Change" in which Waits first introduced his drunken persona to his singing style. It worked well in "Small Change", the piano ballads matched up perfectly and they complimented each other well. In this album the piano ballads have been swapped for smooth jazz. In fact the whole album feels as if you're in a basement in the 70's, but its a club that you have to walk down a bunch of stone steps to walk into. There are people smoking, and there is a man in a bow tie with a vest on holding the microphone singing while the jazz band plays. Its almost euphoric in a way. The whole album is consistent and holds what I can only best describe as a very "wintery" feeling. It feels like you are in the middle of December, whereas you are close to winter, you're not quite there, but you're getting there. The album kicks off with "Cinnys Waltz" which is just a brief introduction to the album. There are no spoken parts but the jazz is what really starts things off on a good note. Its really something to behold. One of the highlights of the album is "I Never Talk To Strangers" which may be the most interesting songs merit wise in the Tom Waits discography. Its a duet, in which the voices compliment one another perfectly. The chemistry is incredible and you get the feeling that this is a real scenario of two people flirting at a bar, but its glorified and given a sense of grace. The whole idea is that the girl is to good for him, and she gives him the excuse "I don't talk to strangers". But the man has clearly had a few drinks, but is trying to play it off. He observes him, and the more they talk the more they realize they have in common.
"A Sight for Sore Eyes" is also an incredible track, its about reminiscing with old friends which is something I think that we can really all relate to, but things take a turn that goes down hill as Waits talks about those who have not made it and how they have met their maker. Its beautifully crafted and really hits home. The whole song is really well done. There really is a lot on this album that I can recommend such as "Potters Field", Burma-Shave", and "Barber Shop" but the main highlight here is that these songs all tell stories. They lament or explain in a beautiful manner. Its comes from the mouth of a story teller with the gravely voice. Waits really knows what he is doing here, in this album it seems as if he is more so comfortable with his drunken persona. It seems as if he has things under control and is in that stage just before things get to drunk. The best way to listen to this album, is to focus on the music and enjoy it for what its worth, than listen to the lyrics and watch as they match up with the music itself.
I really cannot manage to this album any justice by just talking about it, to me this album seems to fall under the radar that those who are into Tom Waits listen to. It falls just short of his early work, but it really is a great album. It reeks of comfort and great story telling, along with loads of smooth jazz. This is the kind of album that you put on when you're doing something and upon hearing it multiple times, lyrics and lines begin to stick out to you and when you actually hear them it blows your mind. Its an album composed of tales that is complimented extremely well by the music. I cannot stop talking positively about this album. It has so much going on for it that it pains me to just sit and talk about it. The less I say about it the better, but this is one in which any Tom Waits fan should listen to.
Recommended Tracks : Potters Field, I Never Talk To Strangers, A Sight for Sore Eyes, Burma Shave, Barber Shop