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I got the style but not the grace - Tom Waits is back
September 1999

I got the style but not the grace
I got the clothes but not the face
I got the bread but not the butter
I got the winda but not the shutter
But I'm big in Japan
--Tom Waits

This is how Tom Waits begins his latest CD "Mule Variations", and the music is a mix of sounds, in fact terrible sounds, and the voice is filtered and sounds as alien as alien can be. I wasn't sure whether I listened to Tom Waits when I heard "Big in Japan" for the first time. I was shocked, to say the least.

But then the music turned into more familiar territory, the voice became rusty as it has always been and the lyrics are as great as ever.

Tom Waits is one of the exceptionally gifted musicians who mixes lyrics and music in a unique way. This record is no exception. Tom Waits reminds me on Randy Newman, and "Mule Variations" is as much an excellent record as is "Bad Love" by Randy Newman.

Both have established themselves as outstanding musicians, well accepted by their peers, and equally well ignored by the majority of record buyers.

I can't recommend "Mule Variations" to anyone who's hooked on mainstream pop and rock, unless you are able to open your mind, heart, soul, and ears. "Mule Variations" is for lovers of excellent music and lyrics. There are no gimmicks on this CD. No over-production, just plain music by one of the most gifted musicians coming out of California.

Tom Waits is of course a California icon of rock-music. His musical history is strange, to say the least. But he has always remained the position of an honest musicians, never played to the public, but asking the plubic to follow him - if they wanted.

"Mule Variations" is no exception. It's a CD which isn't easy to swallow. None of the songs is a "hit" in terms of easy listening, but if you want to know what's possible in terms of song-writing, this is a wonderful piece of work.

Oh, before I forget, Tom Waits' should never be compared with Shawn Mullins, because Shawn Mullins has his own place in the rock-music world. Why I needed to make this comment? Because I like Shawn Mullins, too. And the latest by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakes ain't bad at all. Yep, and the other day I received Vanilla Fudge's "The beat goes on" from 1968. Great listening.

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