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Heartattack and Vine – Tom Waits

Tom Waits Heartattack and Vine

Heartattack and Vine

(1980), 6/10
Tom Waits’ final album with Asylum Records is an interesting two-paced record. On one hand the blues material like the title track and ‘Downtown’ isn’t very interesting; Waits’ later blues songs with his junkyard instrument approach are much stronger than his straightforward guitar work on these tracks. But Heartattack and Vine also features beautiful ballads like ‘Ruby’s Arms’ and ‘Jersey Girl’ that are terrific and among his best loved work.

Of the bluesy songs I do enjoy ‘Downtown’, where the sound is fleshed out with an organ, while the lyrics of the title track are also memorable. But the meat of Heartattack and Vine is in the ballads; ‘Jersey Girl’ was famously covered by Bruce Springsteen on his live set. ‘On A Nickel’ is gorgeous with Waits singing smoothly in a low register, backed by sparse piano and strings. And ‘Ruby’s Arms’ is another pretty tune, with a neat, unexpected chord sequence.

Heartattack and Vine doesn’t flow very well as an album, and the generic blues songs leave the dominating impression, but it’s well worth cherry-picking the highlights from it.

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