Sunday, 8 April 2018

"The Heart Of A Saturday Night" by TOM WAITS (March 2018 Anti CD Reissue - Tom Waits/Kathleen Brennan/Karl Derfler/Peter Lyman Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Skipping Like A Stone..."

DAMN and DOUBLE DRAT! - Fantastic audio folks - but lacklustre, even sloppy lazy packaging.

Like so many lifetime fans I've been waiting just that for decent affordable Remasters of Tom Waits stunning Asylum Years catalogue stretching from 1972 to 1980. And here they are in March 2018 on Anti Records CDs, DLs and LPs – his musical home since "Mule Variations" won awards galore in 1999. But even though the CDs are priced at just under a tenner in the UK – outside of the sound and knowing what could have been given to us – they’re hugely disappointing on almost every other front.

Each reissue is housed in a faded card digipak, has a picture CD of sorts, a booklet and new Tom Waits/Kathleen Brennan/Karl Derfler supervised tape transfers – mastered in turn by Peter Lyman at his Infrasonic Mastering Studios in California (a renowned studio with Grammy award-winners on their resume). The 16-page booklet provides lyrics and album credits but bugger all else. In fact they couldn't even get this right. The lyrics to "San Diego Serenade" and the musician credits page are repeated twice in the booklet and in the wrong place! Then they forget to print the lyrics to "Semi Suite" altogether.

I bought the "Small Change" album too – but again in a booklet with only lyrics on offer - instead of actually giving you the myriad words to the witty "Step Right Up" – we get the original album credit that asks you to send off an SAE and get the lyrics by return! You open the digipak to "Small Change" and you're confronted with nothing - no photo on the left and nothing beneath the tray on the right. As with "Small Change" - the booklet for "Heart Of..." has no new liner notes, no history (not even a catalogue number for the original release) and worse not a single extra track when these reissues have been screaming out for deluxe editions for years. It's hugely disappointing. But at least the first four Remastered titles are also to be released on 180-GRAM VINYL with a download code built in (see list below). So what do you get from your CD...what diamonds on your windshield...

UK and EUROPE released Friday, 9 March 2018 - "The Heart Of Saturday Night" by TOM WAITS on Anti 7566-2 (Barcode 8714092756623) is a straightforward CD Reissue and Remaster of the 11-Track 1974 album originally on Asylum Records (USA) and plays out as follows (41:33 minutes):

1. New Coat Of Paint [Side 1]
2. San Diego Serenade
3. Semi Suite
4. Shiver Me Timbers
5. Diamonds On My Windshield
6. (Looking For) The Heart Of Saturday Night
7. Fumblin' With The Blues [Side 2]
8. Please Call Me, Baby
9. Depot, Depot
10. Drunk On The Moon
11. The Ghosts Of Saturday Night (After Hours At Napoleone's Pizza House)
Tracks 1 to 11 are his second studio album "The Heart Of Saturday Night" - released October 1974 in the USA on Asylum Records 7E-1015 and June 1976 (belatedly) in the UK on Warner Brothers K 53035. Produced by BONES HOWE with all songs written by Tom Waits - it didn't chart in either country.

TOM WAITS - Vocals on all Tracks, Piano on Tracks 2, 3, 4, 7 to 11, Electric Piano and Electric Guitar on Track 1, Acoustic Guitar on Track 6
MIKE MELVOIN - Piano on Track 1, Electric Piano on 7 and Conducts Orchestra on Tracks 2, 4 and 8
ARTHUR RICHARDS - Electric Guitar on Track 1, 2, 3, 7 and 9, Acoustic Guitar on Track 4
JIM HUGHART - Upright Bass on All Tracks
OSCAR BRASHEAR – Trumpet on Tracks 3, 7, 9 and 10
TOM SCOTT – Tenor Saxophone on Tracks 3, 9 and 10 - Clarinet on Track 7
JIM GORDON – Drums on Tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10 - Knee slaps and Percussion on Track 6
BONES HOWE – Production (all songs) and Percussion on Track 2

The digipaks are pretty - each coming with a generic 'Newly Remastered with Waits/Brennan' sticker (Kathleen Brennan is his wife) - but when you open the digipak there's nothing on the inside but one photo to the left - zero beneath the see-through tray - and again - not a single extra. It all feels staggeringly lazy and instead of being a celebration of this American songwriter's magnificent catalogue – it comes across the same way the Neil Young reissues did – what could be gotten away with instead of giving fans something to get their teeth into. The inevitable ‘unreleased stuff’ Box Set will follow on Anti no doubt - thereby costing fans more dosh and yet another purchase. But let's concentrate on what is great - the amazing Audio...

I went immediately to my TW-craves - "Shiver Me Timbers" and the title track "(Looking For) The Heart Of Saturday Night". Both of these gorgeous buccaneer and street ballads were done by Lee Herschberg in 1986 on the truncated CD reissue of the 1984 double-album "Asylum Years" and then later by Rhino's Dan Hersch and Bill Inglot on the fabulous "Used Songs 1973-1980" CD compilation from 2001 (see separate review). Here the audio is so much more full - in your face with its clarity and not uber-trebled for the sake of it. The sliding upright double-bass notes of James Hughart practically chop the tips of your ears off in "...The Heart Of Saturday Night". The same applies to Tom Scott's clarinet on "Fumblin' With The Blues" - Mike Melvoin's electric piano notes too. "Please Call Me, Baby" has an orchestra arranged and conducted by MIke Melvoin and suddenly their melodic contribution is beautiful - Tom singing about being too cold for his baby to wander the streets after a heated row - not wanting her to catch her death of a cold. The 'one, two, three, four..." count in to "Semi Suite" is amazingly clear - there is that hiss but it's not been cleaned away or dampened - just feels natural as Oscar Brashear and Tom Scott flit off each other on Trumpet and Tenor Sax. "Drunk On The Moon" and the swaying street shuffle of "The Ghosts Of Saturday Night..." both have huge presence and are the best I’ve ever heard them.

So - great audio and musically the album is a stone five-star singer-songwriter winner but naught a lot else.

Fans will have to own them for sure given the sonic upgrade – buts it’s just such a shame that Anti Records haven’t provided something here actually worth getting giddy about - especially when it comes to an artist that so many have adored for so long...

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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