Mule Variations (studio album) by Tom Waits
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Tom Waits bestography
The best album by Tom Waits is Rain Dogs which is ranked number 98 in the list of all-time albums with a total rank score of 15,905.
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Mule Variations track list
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This album is rated in the top 2% of all albums on BestEverAlbums.com. This album has a Bayesian average rating of 79.0/100, a mean average of 78.4/100, and a trimmed mean (excluding outliers) of 79.1/100. The standard deviation for this album is 14.9.
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Ottimo disco, qualche grande canzone, ma anche i primi segni di imbolsimento...
Now I wasn't a Tom Waits fan. Albums like Rain Dogs put me off of this man. However, this album right here is completely amazing. A mix of folk, muffled rock, beautiful ballads and southern jazz won me over. His voice on this record is husky but also down to earth. Even when the subject matter can be dark. And their is multiple tracks that are just incredible that you can have a fun time but also have songs like House Where Nobody Lives or Georgia Lee that are legitimate tearjerkers. If anybody is having a hard time listening to Tom Waits and think he is weird, listen to this album at least once. You may have the same reaction as me and think this album is amazing. Oh and if people are worried about the length of this album, don't worry it goes by really quickly that you would be surprised that it was 70 minutes long.
It had been six years since Tom Waits' last album when he released, mule variations, in 1999. In a way, it was his most conservative release for a while, although it is difficult to describe an album as conservative when it features songs such as, eyeball kid, and, Filipino box spring hog. Either way, it was still an accessible record by Tom Waits standards. Stii, this didn't detract anything from the music, mule variations, features some of Waits' best writing for years. Opener, big in Japan, is an excellent dirty rock track, and this high quality is consistent through the whole album. From the bluesy, get behind the mule, to the Springsteen-ish, hold on, the beautiful ballad, the house where nobody lives, and the sublime, what's he building, surely Waits' greatest narration track ever. Elsewhere, the high standard continues with, Georgia Lee, pony, take it with me, and the aforementioned, Filipino box spring hog. The LP is actually my joint favourite Tom Waits album with, rain dogs, and catches Tom with arguably his best collection of compositions ever. Fantastic.
Tom Waits is so much fun.
This album was my introduction to Tom Waits. Brilliant. What's he building in there?
The genius of Waits strikes again. This was his best album after a the lull following the mad, raging, brilliant Bone Machine, and is really one of his best. Imagine, for a minute that there had been no Swordfishtrombone, Raindogs, Bone Machine, Black Rider or Frank's Wild Years. Imagine what the response to this album would have been. It would have turned the music world on its head.
The first sound you hear on pressing play is a grinding, grating blues tune with heavily distorted, humorous lyrics. It's hard to distinguish this song from noise. And for a moment, you think this album may be hard to listen to, even for a Tom Waits album. As the first few songs progress, though, something strange begins to unfold. Waits is doing more than entertaining his own love of outcasts. He's doing more than having fun with styles and words.
As others have said, this is incredibly engaging, and I prefer it even to Rain dogs. It invokes such a wide range of moods and emotions....from from the self-deprecating humor of Big in Japan, to the gut-wrenching sentiment of Hold On, to the sheer creepiness of What's He Building....there isn't a bad song on this album.
Yeah, I really love this record. From start to finish I find it to be really engaging and interesting and really effective at all the moods and styles it tries to take on. The slow numbers are just really sad and romantic. And the louder and more abrasive numbers are equal parts funny and disturbing. Lyrically he is great here as well. I feel the lyrics on "Take It With Me" are stunning because they really carry the whole song as the musical accompaniment is very minimal, and the mood is very hushed and intimate. To me that song feels like a quiet conversation with Tom or whatever character he is playing, about his life and the love he's had and lost and his philosophy and his adentures. It's breathtaking! The opening lines of "The phone's off the hook. No one knows where we are. It's a long time since I drank champagne. The ocean is blue, as blue as your eyes." Just sets up the whole track beautifully.
And this album has similar tender successes with the simple, blues style lyrics of "Picture In A frame" and the rambling songwriting gem "Hold On".
As for the more wild and raucous side, everything from the opener "Big In Japan", and "Chocolate Jesus", "Eyeball Kid" (HAIL HAIL! THE EYEBALL KID!/... He doesn't have a body! Not even a brow!") and "Filipino Box Spring Hog" all work and are funny and enjoyable.
There's also other aspects to this album. There's a whole folk side to it. But it's not a simple guitar and vocal rendition of folk and roots, it's a down and dirty rendition. Waits really knows how to get to the essence and spirit of old time music - folk, blues, work songs, etc. but he does it with his own stamp or style all over it. Great examples of this on this album are standouts like "Get Behind The mule", "Georgia Lee", "Cold Water" (especially love this song to its core) and the old time preacher gospel of "Come On Up To The house" which also happens to be a PERFECT and super uplifting closer to this master work.
In closing, this thing just features almost everything I love about Mr. Waits. He's such a musical genius and such an important artist in my life. And I feel this is his best album and most well rounded and consistent, bar none. I think it's got a better sound and production than "Rain Dogs" and some of his earlier albums and it balances songs with experiments better here than on some of his other modern (last 30 years) classics. Yeah, this is honestly the best album of his. But there are so few bad ones it's wild.
This album is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! If you love this, also check out "Alice" and "Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers an Bastards". He really hasn't released a whole lot of less than great stuff in the last, oh, 40+ years.
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