Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tom Waits – Rain Dogs

   Tom Waits was always a star in the niche reserved for personalities in conflict with official structures. Of course every creative artist is against the world he found not sufficient, this discord is basic mechanism of creation in general. But sometimes it comes to be the way of life. It can be called bohemian or hipster, the terms are varying, but in the core it is always the same. One of conditions of creative attitude is not to subordinate and to have enough courage to say it loud. And Tom Waits was artist who did this in seventies, when retired heroes of seventies revolts enjoyed fame and fortune. This is the reason why his early club concerts and recordings were popular only among small group of fervent followers. In eighties he became famous and even if he made some changes, he was still in opposition to mainstream of pop, post disco, post punk music played in TV. In Waits creative biography this was the time of trilogy – Swordfishtrombones (1984), Rain Dogs (1985) and Frank’s Wild Years (1987).
   The ninth album by Tom Waits – or better, his presence – makes culture of the eighties more human and open than it really was. There’s no coincidence in times of Reagganite antisocial politics and empty gesture of anticommunist propaganda, a bunch of avant-garde musicians recorded series of albums steeped in nostalgia for the difficult times of great crisis, dark after war poetry, revolting outsiders, beatniks, crude folk and dirty but so sincere delta blues sound. It was just another answer for the same question, which set themselves counterculture artists. And in eighties it was even more troubled than any time before, because this time it was against prosperous society dreaming the republican dream in beginnings of postindustrial era. Mainstream media were focused on easy and mild version of American music that was quite different to what could be heard in Detroit, Chicago, Seattle or New Orleans. 

Tom Waits – Rain Dogs (1985)

   Recording of Rain Dogs was crucial moment in the creative process. During sessions in RCA studios Waits was supported by 23 musicians. It is some more than personnel of average star of pop or jazz music. And this is not the orchestra but a bunch of great personalities. Ralph Carney, saxophonist with rich sound so well respondent to Waits’ timbre, working with singer for years and guest stars John Lurie on alto saxophone and Arno Hecht on tenor, long term double bass player Greg Cohen, Larry Taylor and guest Tony Levine on bass, G. E. Smith and Marc Ribot on guitars, Stephen Hodges on drums and percussionist Bobby Previte, Bob Funk on trombone and William Schimmel on accordion – many of them were regular members of Waits’ band, but in group of incidental stars it is hard to omit Keith Richards playing guitar and backing vocals. Listing could be long, even if list is only two dozen names; every musician has his own contribution to the sound of this album.
   It is a mystery of his talent how he melted all the elements together. The irony outweighs the depressive vision of loneliness in the deep night, when rain washed out streets and dogs have lost the way home. Projected title of this album had to be Evening Train Wrecks. Everything here shows the world is wretched place and everything is convincing our sensitivity can do it better – maybe even not much, but better place. Two songs from the Rain Dogs were used in movie Down by Law by Jim Jarmusch. Tom Waits played Zack one of main characters of this movie – other two actors were John Lurie as Jack and Roberto Begnini as Roberto. Opening sequence capturing New Orleans and its outskirts is clear reference to Jockey Full of Bourbon song and in a way to the whole Rain Dogs album.

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