Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles

08
Sep
17

Tom Waits “Nighthawks at the Diner”

This is a very early Tom Waits record, though I can’t remember exactly when I first heard it or where I got it, but it’s always been one of my favorites—of his, and favorite records period—and without a doubt my favorite live record—though it turns out—according to the internet—that it’s not really a live record after all. Apparently it was recorded at the Record Plant, in LA, in front of an invited audience used to replicate the sound and feeling of an intimate jazz club or piano bar. It’s really well done—they had me fooled. I always pictured this kind of sleazy, Sunset Strip nightclub, and throughout, he does refer to the Ivar Theatre repeatedly, and also “Rafael’s Silver Cloud Lounge,” and though I always figured he was kind of spinning tales, I still assumed this was in a legitimate club—you can almost smell the bourbon, vomit, and cigarette smoke bathed in red neon. Now, when I found out that I had been totally fooled, do you think I got angry? No. Because I have a high intellect, and I can enjoy being fooled, and I appreciate something so well executed.

His monologues before many of the songs are amazing in themselves; the one before “Eggs and Sausage” is particularly good and would make the record, even if that’s all there was. But there’s more, of course; in fact it’s a double record, and all the monologues and songs kind of blend seamlessly. Okay—now I notice—on the back of the album cover it says, right there, that it was recorded at The Record Plant. I guess I never bothered to read it. I also just noticed that there’s extensive lyrics on the inside, when you open it up—these are some long songs. I guess I never read along with the lyrics because you can pretty much make out every word—even though he’s doing a real Tom Waits-like, rough nightclub singer voice, he’s also clear as a bell. The lyrics are crucial. I can recall listening to this record in the spring of 1986, in Columbus, Ohio, while I painted my kitchen. So even to this day it feels like it’s the ideal record to listen to while painting a kitchen.

It would take me pages and pages to even kind of go over my favorite songs and excerpt my favorite lyrics. There are only two or three songs per side, but it all kind runs together, feeling like one live show, and it’s dense and extensive. Tom Waits must have been only in his mid-twenties when he recorded this, but he sounds convincing as an old-timer who’s been around forever. That’s part of the act. The cover photograph is of Tom Waits in a booth of a diner, photographed through a window—it could possibly be something an art department set up—but could also be a real diner—it would have been easy to find this diner in 1975. There’s nothing in that picture that doesn’t ring true. There are also seven people in the picture, in the diner, with him. I suppose I could scour the internet to find out if it’s known who they are—it could be the musicians, or friends, or real people in a real diner, who knows? Someone knows. It would be pretty cool to be one of those people. I just noticed, for the first time ever!—on the very bottom right of the cover, lying face-down in front of the diner window, is a person wearing a leather jacket. How did I never see that before? It’s kind of freaking me out—what else, in this lifetime—have I also not ever noticed? A lot, I’m sure.

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14
Mar
09

George Benson “Weekend in LA”

Ever since the suffering, bored days of high school, I’ve always considered George Benson’s 1976 milestone, “Breezin'” as shorthand for “insipid.” So it was with great trepidation that I put on this double, LIVE, LP from two years later, the dreaded cultural abyss of 1978. But to my surprise, I’m rather enjoying this low key, smooth jazz experience—really, I’m not kidding. I’ve graced my turntable and neighbors with this LP more than a few times lately. Perhaps I have mellowed like a fine wine. I’m not exactly coming home from school, putting on the Sex Pistols, and pounding a quart of hard cider like I was doing in the days this was pressed. No, these days Ray Speen has used his crack pipe to prop up the wobbly leg of his game table where he’s slowly working on an enormous jigsaw puzzle of the Taj Mahal. That image in the reflecting pool—as still and perfect as it is—just drives you crazy! But that’s another subject.

At first I thought this was a single record, as the second disk is gone. Then I noticed that I was in possession of Record 1 Side I, backed with Record 1 Side IV. That’s Roman numeral “4” for all you intravenous drug abusers who can’t get their minds off the dope. Try a jigsaw puzzle, really. The best song is on side “IV”—the awesome Leon Russell’s “Lady Blue.” Other standouts are “Weekend in LA”, which could be synonymous with “mellow,” and “On Broadway” which could maybe be the theme song for everything in the 1970s I’d like to forget. But in a good way. You can barely tell this is a live record, the audience is so subdued; they sound like they’re all sitting in comfortable seats next to blonde ladies, sipping gin sours.

The cover is as equally classic, with “George Benson” “signed” in red neon, and George assuming the (strictly reserved for superstars) Jesus on the cross pose, that is if Jesus had been gripping a hollowbody, George Benson signature Ibanez in one hand, which, who knows, maybe he was. There are a couple more good pictures of GB, and really, he’s got one of the best moustaches of all time. This could very well be my moustache model for my new look. I’m already, as it is well known, fond of those open collars big enough to double as a jib, Genoa, or even a mainsail. Not something you’d want to wear on the high seas, but fine for tropical, LA nights.




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