Wednesday, November 9, 2016

CD Odyssey Disc 935: Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle

As is often the case, I’m double-booked with activities tonight, so I’m trying to squeeze this review in before company arrives. By checking the time it was posted you’ll know if I succeeded.

Disc 935 is….One from the Heart
Artist: Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle

Year of Release: 1982

What’s up with the Cover? This album is a soundtrack to a movie, and this is the movie poster. I think that’s Terri Garr’s back, walking away. Judging by that suitcase, I think she’s gonna be gone a while.

How I Came To Know It: I can’t remember. Sheila might have bought me this one to round out our Tom Waits collection, or I might’ve bought it for her for the same reason. We both like Tom Waits.

How It Stacks Up:  I have 18 of Tom Waits’ studio albums. While technically this one is a duet album with Crystal Gayle, I’m going to count it. So where does it land? I left a spot for it at #14 but it didn’t inspire like I expected it to, so I’m dropping it down to #17 and moving everything in between up one.

Ratings: 2 stars

Unlike most of the soundtracks in my collection, I’ve never seen “One from the Heart”. Consequently I had to take the music on its own terms, but really shouldn’t every album be taken that way anyway?

In this case, the music is a lot of early eighties lounge action, with its feet planted firmly in the tradition of fifties and sixties musicals. I half expected Frank Sinatra to stroll out.

Instead, it is Tom Waits (who wrote the whole thing) and seventies pop heart-throb Crystal Gayle. I mostly remember Crystal Gayle from duets with Kris Kristofferson and from the tingly feelings she’d give me when I would stare at her sexy album covers. I was a bit too young to fully appreciate it, but make no mistake – Crystal Gayle was the bomb back in the day.

She also had a great voice that was full and rich, with a lot of range and power throughout it. Usually she sang in a style that mixed country and pop, but on “One From the Heart” she sings a lounge-style jazz which works equally well for her.

The purity of her tone is a nice juxtaposition to Waits’ whiskey-and-cigarette’s rasp, and the best songs on the album feature them trading verses.

The songwriting is excellent and thoughtful, which is what I’ve come to expect from Tom Waits. Here Waits has embraced the old fifties and sixties jazz sound yet written original songs that sound fresh and interesting. If you like to sit and listen to old musical soundtracks from that era, you’ll probably enjoy this record a great deal.

Unfortunately, I don’t really go for a whole album of playful crooning, particularly when the songs are so focused on telling a story that they don’t stand out on their own. The story comes through just fine: boy and girl have problems and split up, or get back together or…something. I guess it would have helped to see the movie.

But the soundtrack doesn’t inspire me to seek it out. Listening to the story it felt like I was trapped in an episode of Moonlighting. Will David and Maddie get back together? Won’t they? Will I care? No, I won’t. The songs may be pretty and well dressed up, but the narrative doesn’t hold me. Kind of like Moonlighting after about season three...

There are Christmas songs on the album, so I am guessing the movie takes place over the holidays, (which would also explain the fireworks on the cover). The whole thing captures the feeling on the album cover as well: rain soaked streets, city lights and a lot of wistful walking. Usually I’m a sucker for this stuff, but for whatever reason I couldn’t get into it today.

There are lots of reasons to like this record. Waits writes a beautiful song and Gayle sings them with grace and just the right amount of playfulness. The stripped down instrumentation serves the vibe well, so the production also hits the right notes.

Yet, for whatever reason this record didn’t resonate with me. I do like a few songs quite a bit, but taken out of the context of the album they lose their punch. Within the context of the album, I don’t have the patience to wait for them to show up.

And so I am going to send this album on its way to a home that will appreciate it more than I did. It is a good record, and deserves better treatment than I could give it. Picture me in place of Terri Garr, heading out to find a musical relationship that works better for me and wishing “One from the Heart” all the best for the same.

Best tracks: Picking Up After You, Old Boyfriends, I Beg Your Pardon

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