Thursday, 12 April 2018

"Closing Time" by TOM WAITS (March 2018 Anti Records CD Reissue and Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Old Shoes And Picture Postcards..."

Virtually unnoticed in Blighty until Asylum reissued much of his Americana catalogue in the summer of 1976 (June to be exact) – Tom Waits' debut album "Closing Time" has had cover-version legs way beyond its humble Stateside beginnings in March of 1973. Marc Cohn did a gorgeous version of "I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You" as an exclusive track on the 2004 soundtrack to "The Prince & Me" - Juliet Turner and Brian Kennedy touched on the same song for her 2001 CD album "Burn The Black Suit" - Andrew Murray (vocalist with De Danaan) did "Old Shoes (And Picture Postcards)" for his fabulous "Hell Or High Water" Folk-Rock CD in 2005.

Even if the public didn't notice Waits and his battered-and-beautiful ballads at the time - other major artists did. Tim Buckley covered "Martha" on his 1973 Discreet Records set "Sefronia" - and a year after his debut was released - the Eagles did "Ol' '55" on their third album "On The Border" in March 1974 - the royalties from which probably kept TW in sausage and beer for a decade.

But when it comes to digital "Closing Time" has always been an album that has had occasional songs remastered onto well-meaning CD compilations and not the Full Monty. Here (at last) is the whole enchilada – even if the bare-bones nature of this 2018 reissue does let the side down a tad (no extras, two blank canvasses on the inside digipak, a functional booklet etc).

This new March 2018 variant now comes at us on Anti Records – home to his music since the much-praised "Mule Variations" album in 1999. You get a card digipak, a 16-page booklet that mimics the lyric-bag inner sleeve of the original 1973 American LP and best of all - a new upgraded Remaster (with artist involvement) done at Infrasonic Mastering in California by Peter Lyman that gives this under appreciated little nugget of an album a genuinely improved audio scrub-up.

There are seven titles in the reissue series covering his output on Asylum Records between 1973 and 1980 (see list below) – Anti releasing the debut "Closing Time" and his second "The Heart Of Saturday Night" on 9 March 2018 with the other five having followed 23 March 2018. All have CD and DL entries as of now with the 180-GRAM VINYL LP issues being spread out across the year. The bad news is that there’s nothing new – the booklets and digipaks are nice enough but offer no updated liner notes, no history, no photos and worse – no extras at all - when his catalogue from this period has been screaming out for Deluxe Editions for decades. But the audio is sensational. So let's deal with what we do have...

UK released Friday, 9 March 2018 - "Closing Time" by TOM WAITS on Anti 7565-2 (Barcode 8714092756524) is a straightforward CD Remaster of his 12-track 1973 Debut LP and plays out as follows (49:37 minutes):

1. Ol' '55 [Side 1]
2. I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You
3. Virginia Avenue
4. Old Shoes (& Picture Postcards)
5. Midnight Lullaby
6. Martha
7. Rosie [Side 2]
8. Lonely
9. Ice Cream Man
10. Little Trip To Heaven (On The Wings Of Your Love)
11. Grapefruit Moon
12. Closing Time
Tracks 1 to 12 are his debut album "Closing Time" - released March 1973 in the USA on Asylum Records SD-5061 and May 1973 in the UK on Asylum SYL 9007 (re-issued June 1976 on Asylum K 53030). Produced by JERRY YESTER (of The Lovin' Spoonful) - it didn't chart in either country.

TOM WAITS –Vocals (All Tracks), Piano (Tracks 1, 3 and 5 to 12), Guitar (Tracks 2 and 4), Harmonium (Track 2), Harpsichord (Track 6) and Celeste (Track 9)
PETER KLIMES – Guitar (Tracks 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 10), 6-String Guitar and Pedal Steel Guitar (Track 7)
SHEP COOKE – Guitar (Track 4) and 6-String Guitar (Track 2)
DELBERT BENNETT – Trumpet (Tracks 3, 5 and 10)
BILL PLUMMER – Bass (Tracks 1 to 5, 7, 9 and 10)
JOHN SEITER – Drums (Tracks 1, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 9)
JESSE EHRLICH – Cello (Track 12)
ARNI EGILSSON- Double Bass (Track 12)
TONY TERRAN – Trumpet (Track 12)
JERRY YESTER – String Arrangement (Track 11)

The 16-page booklet reproduces the lyrics from the single-sleeve LP – something many British fans never saw because they weren't in either of the UK issues on vinyl (the 1973 Asylum SYL 9007 pressing is incredibly rare because it sold absolute zip) and you also get musician credits and basic reissue details – but naught else.

TOM WAITS, KATHLEEN BRENNAN and KARL DERFLER supervised the new remaster with final mastering done by the award-winning PETER LYMAN at his Infrasonic Mastering Studios in California. In keeping with the simple and uncluttered production values Jerry Yester (of The Lovin' Spoonful) gave the album in the first place - this transfer sounds beautiful in every way. There's very little hiss but loads of presence and body and at times the intimacy is spine tingling - a gorgeous job done...

Asylum tried the opener "Ol' '55" as a lone US 7" single two months before the album's release - January 1973's Asylum AS-11014 having the LP's "Midnight Lullaby" as its flipside - but it tanked. Amazingly Waits would have to wait until April 1979 in the UK to see a 45-release - "Somewhere" b/w "Red Shoes From The Drugstore" from his masterpiece "Blue Valentine" album (Elektra K 12347) and even then word is that that release was withdrawn. What’s not in dispute here is the Audio - as he counts in one, two, three, four and the piano kicks in – the effect is fantastic. Riding with lady luck is right – lead the parade indeed. For me though his songwriting genius begins with the crowded bar song "I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You" – Tom lights his cigarette (hasn't the guts to bum one), orders another stout and tries to contain his tom-cat feelings for the girl on the next stool. The fantastic sleaze-bag poor-boy piano Blues of "Virginia Avenue" features end-of-the-night guitar licks from Peter Klimes and boozy Trumpet phrases from Delbert Bennett - both of which are now more pronounced.

I've never heard the Shep Cooke acoustic guitars of the truly beautiful TW ballad "Old Shoes (& Picture Postcards)" sound so good as TW revels in the spark, the girl with the sun in her eyes, but the call of the road is too strong - so it's tears, farewell and then - he's gone. Guy Davis does a wonderful cover of "Midnight Lullaby" on his 2007 CD set "Down At The Sea Hotel" - singing a song of sixpence with a pocket full of rye. Speaking of covers - "Martha" has been tapped by so many - Ireland's gravel-vocalist Freddie White in 1981 - Scotland's Hue & Cry in 1994 and Hell even Meatloaf had a go on his "Welcome To The Neighborhood" album in 1995. Here it’s Tom, his piano, harpsichord, a string section and unidentified vocals. Quiet evenings trembling close to you - the Remaster on "Martha" is so damn good – fans will indeed be a wee bit achy to this.

Side 2's "Rosie" is even better - a song I've never heard sound so sweet. There's a wonderful Eagles amble to the melody as Robert Klimes does some lovely understated pedal-steel guitar - Tom singing about loving Rosie of the Moon until the day he dies (if he can persuade here that is to return the compliment). The weary and eerie "Lonely" has acoustic piano notes lingering around your speakers as Tom's voice mumbles about Melanie Jane's eyes and face - both looking lonely in a lonely place. "Ice Cream Man" is the only song on the album where it sounds odd - like he's trying too hard - the fast pace and one-man-band lyrics all feel forced and unconvincing. Better is "Little Trip To Heaven (On The Wings Of Your Love)" where Tom doesn't have to go to outer space - all he has to do is gawk at her face - Delbert Bennett's trumpet playing mimicking his hoppity-skippity shoe-be-do heart. A fabulous debut closes with two winners - the no-star-shining "Grapefruit Moon" and the do-one-for-posterity instrumental "Closing Time" - both sounding utterly glorious - bigger than they've ever been. Wowser... 

Could these 2018 reissues have been Deluxe Editions with Bonus Tracks and Unreleased – of course! But given the immense Audio upgrade – I’d still say they’re worth the money and are absolute must-haves for fans.

I know I can't be rational about Tom Waits - I've always thought him God and re-listening to this forgotten nugget only hammers home that assertion with a mallet and a bullet with my name on it. Explore this man’s work – the payoff will be immense and expect to be at that shopping basket for the other six...

TOM WAITS - March 2018 
Reissue Series of CDs, LPs and Downloads on Anti Records
All CDs are in Card Digipaks, come with Booklets and Pic CDs but No Extras
"Closing Time" and "The Heart Of Saturday Night" released Friday, 9 March 2018 
- The others all released Friday, 23 March 2018

1. "Closing Time" (1973) - Anti 7565-2 (Barcode 8714092756524) - CD/LP is Anti 7565-1 (Barcode 8714092756517)
2. "The Heart Of Saturday Night" (1974) - Anti 7566-2 (Barcode 8714092756623)/LP due May 2018
3. "Nighthawks At The Diner" (1975 Live Double onto 1CD) - Anti 7567-2 (Barcode 8714092756722)/LP due May 2018
4. "Small Change" (1976) - Anti 7568-2 (Barcode 8714092756821)/LP due May 2018
5. "Foreign Affairs" (1977) - Anti 7569-2 (Barcode 8714092756920)
6. "Blue Valentine" (1978) - Anti 7570-2 (Barcode 8714092757026)
7. "Heartattack And Vine"(1980) - Anti 7571-2 (Barcode 8714092757125)

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