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Nighthawks at the Diner – Tom Waits

Nighthawks at the Diner

(1975), 7/10
Nighthawks at the Diner is a live album of previously unreleased songs. Because the songs are presented in a live setting, it shows a different perspective on Waits’ shtick; he’s allowed to give opening prologues for the songs, which showcase his skills as a raconteur and stand up comedian. Waits’ sound is also markedly different from his previous albums – he’s using a jazz combo here, and the songs are often less formed, like Waits reciting beatnik poetry over a jazzy backing. The players include respected jazz pianist Michael Melvoin, whose famous children include Wendy Melvoin of Wendy and Lisa.

At seventy minutes, Nighthawks at the Diner can be a tough listen, as it feels more like a vehicle for Waits’ personality and for the jazz musos than a particularly compelling set of songs. My favourite is ‘Better Off Without A Wife’, Waits’ plea for bachelorhood, which has a more memorable melody than most of the other songs. ‘Better Off Without A Wife’ also has the most memorable ‘Intro’, with Waits’ tale of a solo date where he seduces himself.

I’m glad that Waits was given the chance to make Nighthawks at the Diner, which showcases his ability to work the crowd. It’s just not a Waits album that I return to very often.

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