Remastered and reissued on Anti. The fourth release in Tom Waits' series of skid row travelogues, Small Change
proves to be the archetypal album of his '70s work. A jazz trio comprising tenor sax player Lew Tabackin, bassist Jim Hughart, and drummer Shelly Manne, plus an occasional string section, back Waits and his piano on songs steeped in whiskey and atmosphere in which he alternately sings in his broken-beaned drunk's voice (now deeper and overtly influenced by Louis Armstrong) and recites jazzy poetry. It's as if Waits were determined to combine the Humphrey Bogart and Dooley Wilson characters from Casablanca with a dash of On the Road's
Dean Moriarty to illuminate a dark world of bars and all-night diners. Of course, he'd been in that world before, but in songs like The Piano Has Been Drinking
and Bad Liver and a Broken Heart
, Waits gives it its clearest expression.
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