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Small Change
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Customer Reviews:

  • sinfully pretty and blue
    OHMIGOD this c.d. is choice. I am listening to it right now. There is a sensual beauty in the music but the real brilliance comes out in the lyrics. "You ask me what I'm doin' here, hold this old lamppost, flippin' this old quarter, tryin' to make up my mind... If it's heads I'll go to Tennessee, if it's tails I'll buy a drink, if it lands on the edge I'll keep talkin'... to... you..."
    Waits' nostalgia and grinning, drunken comraderie come in his devastating growl and the pure poetry of his language. Gloomy yet headshakingly happy. "The Piano Has Been Drinking" is one of the best songs I have ever heard- "the carpet needs a haircut and the spotlight looks like a prison-break and the telephone's out of cigarettes and the balcony is on the make..." This album can actually change the atmosphere in the room- it is enlightening and intimate. There is nothing self-indulgent about it- it is about real life- waitresses and dead-end jobs, late-night liquor and broken down cars on bad streets. This is the blues, done with lots of hope and heart. I fell in love with this music instantly....more info
  • very good album
    If you never heard any Tom waits music, this is a great place to start. 'step right up' is dazzling, tom is in great form here. It's a very funny album in parts, with 'the piano has been drinking' and 'pasties and a g-string', there are more serious songs like 'invitaton to the blues'. This album never needs bonding...more info
  • An invitation to the blues
    This album is nothing short of astonishing. It is a sort of culmination of Tom Waits's early work, his archetypal 70's album. He remains lyrically "chained to the same bowl of vomit" (as Nick Cave once put it so eloquently), which in his case is the seedy, late night, underworld of bars with beer-stained carpets and smoke-filled air. This does focus less on scene-setting and more on character sketches and narratives, but the lyrics are pure Waits: full of the off-color imagery and crazy internal rhyming that is distinctly his. The album is divided between jazzy, piano-based songs (with occasional orchestral backing), and a few more musically mundane pieces, featuring something along the line of spoken-word pieces. The first song is the excellent Tom Traubert's Blues (God only knows where some of Waits's song titles come from) - this is the first Waits song that I ever heard, and, when I heard it, the voice almost knocked me out. It's just yet another signature element. Step Right Up is a hilarous scat piece. Other highlights include Invitation To The Blues, The One That Got Away, and the surreal title track. This album also includes two of Waits's all-time classic songs, The Piano Has Been Drinking and Bad Liver And A Broken Heart (possibly one of my favorite songs of his.) This is certainly an essential Waits album, and it's not a bad place for a new fan to start....more info
  • Masterpiece
    Track 6 "Invitation to the blues" is my favorite and one of his best.Very good album!...more info
  • SMall Change Big Return
    Late one night in the 70's.on the low end of the dial, a DJ was compelled to play the entire album. I listened mostly to Miles and new music like Weather Report...I was completely transfixed...I never heard a record continue onward with such genius and originality. I went to work the next day, and a lot of people were talking about the album. I still consider this a masterpiece....and would like to remind people that no lyrics are repeated on this album. That alone is astounding. There is a light that shines on this man like no other..I want to add the the immediacy of presence of this recording is also stunning, and as CD players have improved, this recording is starting to stand out as an audiophile classic. I mean, just check the players!...more info
  • On The Mean Streets Of Saturday Night
    This comments posted here are also being used to comment on other Tom Waits albums.

    The inner lives of the denizens of that late night diner in the famous painting by the American realist artist Edward Hopper, "Nighthawks" (1942). The scorching literary sketches of the rich and famous and the skid row bums provided by the late "Gonzo" journalist Doctor Hunter Thompson, accompanied by the renderings of the artist Ralph Steadman. The jingle-jangle high side lyrics of the legendary folk musician Bob Dylan of the "Blood On The Tracks" period. The reach into the far side of the part of the psyche exhibited by those down at the base of American society in an earlier period by the novelist Nelson Algren in "Walk On The Wild Side". And that same reach later by the man of the "mean" Los Angeles streets, Charles Bukowski. Wrap them all up in a whiskey-soaked, cigarette-scarred, gravelly, rasping voice and you have the idiosyncratic musician Tom Waits. Placed in that same company as above? Yes, by all means. Not a bad place to be, right?

    Although I have been listening to the music of one Tom Waits for decades, every since I heard Jerry Jeff Walker do a cover of his classic song of loneliness, longing and reaching for the elusive promise of Saturday night dreams in "Looking For The Heart Of Saturday Night", I am not familiar with his biography. All I know is that aside from his own far-reaching musical endeavors, as expressed in numerous albums over the years, he has acted in some motion pictures, most notably as a skid row philosopher of sorts in the movie version of William Kennedy's "Ironweed" (a natural, right?) and has provided the soundtrack music to many movies, most notably the Al Pacino-starring "Sea Of Love". That Waits soundtrack version of the late 1950's, early 1960's classic teenage anthem to longing and love is just the right example of what Brother Waits means musically to this reviewer. Taking that simple song of teenage longing, Waits' husky-voiced rendition reaches back and turns it into something almost primordial, something that goes back beyond time to our first understandings that we are `alone' in the universe. Enough said.

    But so much for all of that because what I really want to mention is the "Waits effect". Every once in a while I `need' to listen to words and sounds that express the dark, misbegotten side of the human experience. You know, sagas of Gun Street girls, guys talking "Spanish in the halls', people lost out there on the edge of society and the like. Is there anyone today who can musically put it better? If you need to hear about hope, dope, the rope. Wine, women and song or no wine, no women or no song. About whiskey-caked barroom floors, floozies, boozies, flotsam, jetsam, stale motel rooms, cigarette-infested hotels, wrong gees, jokers, smokers and ten-cent croakers. Drifters, grifters, no good midnight sifters. Life on the fast lane, nowhere lane, some back street alley, perhaps, out in the valley. This, my friends is you address. Listen up. Professor Waits is at the lectern.

    Small Change, Tom Waits, Electra/Asylum Records, 1976

    This is another early Waits album with some now classic material . "Tom Traubert's Blues", the prophetic pre- Hurricane Katrina "I Wish I Was in New Orleans (In The Ninth Ward) and the title track "Small Change" stick out here.
    ...more info
  • Step right up. Buy this right now.
    I started my Tom Waits collection late in life - I picked up "Alice" when it came out. Until then, I was only vaguely familiar with his work. Listening to "Alice" I became hooked and started picking up other CDs.

    I bought "Small Change" for "Waltzing Matilda" - a song I'd always loved. I can't take it off the CD player now. The whole thing is perfect - and it's hard for me to call any collection of music perfect. It's Tom from back in his 'romantic vaudeville' days, when his songs were all about love and loss and everyday junk. Later, he turned to the more carnival macabre feel - which is every bit as fantastic, but if you want essential Waits, this is the CD to get. Get this and the soundtrack to "One From the Heart."

    Beautiful, beautiful stuff....more info

  • Tom Terrific...
    How much do I love this recording? Well, let's go back to the 70's. There was always someone at a party who would troll through the hosts' record collection and select some atmosphere killing LP by Steely Dan, or Zappa, or Todd Rundgren, and, get this, they'd want you to love it too.I always left for the kitchen when this happened, but one party I guess I was a little slow afoot and I got hooked into hearing a couple of cuts from this wonderful album.So I went out and got it for myself. The first and last time a party troll ever influenced any record purchase of mine. On this ,Tom's fourth release, he completely succeeds in melding the Barfly-Bukowsky-Boho-meets The Beats influences into a cohesive and focused (if a barfly's eyes can focus)piece of work that is unmistakably Tom's own. It's hilarious (The Piano Has Been Drinking), sentimental in a good way (Tom Traubert's Blues, a song so good even disco era Rod Stewart couldn't ruin it)and hip,or hep as the case may be (Step Right Up). Everything on here is wonderful and the small authentic bopster/cool combo headed by L.A. jazz drummer Shelly Manne keeps everything swinging madly.Tom Waits is by no means an idiot and he realized he couldn't keep going to this same well.He handed the keys to his Caddy to Rickie Lee Jones and set out to make "serious" music that certain of my egghead friends assure me is a wonderful mix of Kurt Weill, musique concrete and a whole bunch of modern classical composers.Hmm...okay. Me, I'd rather be rained on with my own .38 .So I'll stick to old fashioned Tom Waits straight up with a twist. That's how much I love this record....more info
  • Beautiful and real
    I think that anyone who took the time to listen to this album would soon be hooked--no matter what their tastes. It is brilliant....more info
  • step right up!
    i've read all these an amazing reviews and they've said it all better than i could, but i can't go without expressing my love for this amazing album! it drew me in as soon as i heard him utter his first words. the unmistakable deep, whiskey-soaked voice of a man after a hard, unforgettable night of drinking, smoking & beautiful womyn. songs like "step right up" and "the piano has been drinking" have my toes tapping, a grin on my face and a the need for more in my heart. for a girl who loves the beat generation, bukowski, good conversation, the rawness of life and a man who isn't afraid to say what he feels - this album is a must have....more info
  • And it's a battered old suitcase.... a hotel someplace, and a wound that will never heal.
    This quote from Tom Traubert's Blues sums up this album pretty well, it got a moody and dark tone to it. Again we are in Waits' universe of lonely ramblers, and late night diners, and again Waits create an imense feel of lonley bars, smoke hanging thick, the drunk elbowed up at the bar, and the lonley musician at the piano. I don't think I can single out any tracks as being the "best" this album seems to have a contiuance to it, where each song lead up to the next, and it seems to be in perfect balance and harmony...righ from the intro of Tom Traubert's Blues, to the scatting Step Right Up to the closing track I can't Wait to Get Off Work. This album is "classic" Waits, before he started to experiment in the more alternative genres. Not saying experimenting is bad, I just prefer his earlier works, even though I love the later albums too. This one is certainly a classic...more info
    I love every kind of music and I recently was introduced to Tom Waits. My faviorte genre is metal but I cant stop listening to this guy. His voice is amazing and all his songs are wonderful. Pasties And A G-String (At The Two O'Clock Club) and Step Right Up are my faviorte on this cd. I own a few other cds by Waits and I have yet to hear this guy make a bad song....more info
  • classic classic classic
    Loved my first Tom Waits album "The Heart of Saturday Night" for its jazzed-up late-night-ramblings feel to it. This was before owning "Small Change," however, and here the ante is upped and Waits delves even deeper into the heart of the diners and back alleys of urban America.

    All my favorite songs on this album are a testament to Waits's tremendous versatility. There is the silvertongue scat "Step Right Up..." the jazz dive "The One that Got Away..." the atmospheric "Small Change..." the weep-into-your-beer "Invitation to the Blues." "Invitation" and "Tom Traubert's Blues" (Waltzing Mathilda) are accompanied by heartbreaking strings and piano. The sax and string bass on some of the more jazzed-up tracks are pretty tight.

    BTW I completely agree with the reviewer below that "I Can't Wait to Get off Work" would have been better middle-album filler, its slot as the final track of the album is somewhat bewildering. Of all the songs of the album that he could have ended on, this one is mediocre at best. The title track would have been the better choice - he used this to close a live performance on "Austin City Limits" in the late 70s and it was incredible. I'm insanely jealous of anyone who managed to be in the audience that night. For the rest of us, PBS still sometimes airs the reruns, so try and catch it sometime - really is something to see and as far as I know, no recordings of it are commercially available....more info

  • Tom Waits Best Album
    This is Tom Waits' Born To Run/Blood On The Tracks album, it's that good! (Funny, how all these albums came out around the same time) I know fans will argue that Rain Dogs, Nighthawks, or Mule Variations is better. However, even those albums have songs that are hard to listen to sometimes. There isn't a song on this album that isn't great! From the opening Waltzing Sound of Tom Trumpert's Blues, the salesman of Step Right Up, The personification gone wild Piano Has Been Drinking, to the final plea to see his girl after work on the final song this album is magical and timeless. If you're looking for the piano man on top of his game, look no further....more info
  • Tom Waits at his best.......
    For those of you unfamiliar with Tom Waits, the man with a voice that sounds like he has been swallowing the contents of many, many ashtrays over the period of decades; all the while maintaining the atmosphere of a truly masterful storyteller, this album is for you. In fact, this album is for everyone. (Well, anyone eighteen or older!) Some of the songs here would make modern day rap/hip hop fans a little shifty in their oversized sneakers. Two of the most popular tunes, here, are "Step Right Up" and "Small Change." Tom Waits' gritty, unabashedly blunt portraits of urban street (and sewer) life are gritty, at times a little nauseating, but so charismatically delivered over minimalist accompaniment (only the blaring of a saxophone), that he commands your attention, and you can't help but listen....more info
  • an easy five stars
    Hard to pick a fav waits album as they are so diverse, but this one gets special recognition. I've been known to kick back with the lights off, drinking bourbon and smoking cigarettes--and just about choking back tears while listening to this. This album can reach into your soul and pull out emotions you didn't know you had. Listening to this album makes me feel like I've trolled a thousand alleyways, weathered many a storm, many a hangover, and held up more than a few lampposts. Highly recommended, even if you hate earlier and later Waits. God bless that guy!...more info
  • One of Waits' Most Haunting Tunes is Here..................
    First off, I think this entire album is excellent, from the tormented "Tom Traubert's Blues" to the hysterical "The Piano Has Been Drinking" to the mellow "Jitterbug Boy." But even if abovementioned tunes did nothing for me, it would be made with the title track.

    "Small Change" is one of the most chilling tunes I have ever heard. The combination of Waits' raspy voice, the instrumentals being a lone saxophone, and the bleak lyrics describing the crime scene and the gunned down gambler are more haunting than any ghost story you were told as a child. This is Tom Waits at his poetic best.

    The bonus is that while this song steals the show, there is plenty to enjoy on the rest of the cd. The mood of the album gravitates toward the down & out pool hallers, hucksters, and all-around tormented souls. From heavy to humorous, this release has it all.

    "Pasties and a G-String" is a hysterical salute to the old burlesque haunts, and the dancers and droolers that inhabit them. Like "Small Change," the focus is on one instrument, the drums, albeit in an entirely upbeat manner.

    Other standout pieces are "Jitterbug Boy," a rare calming piano piece, singing the Jitterbug Boy's unlikely claims of places he's been and people he's met; "The One that Got Away," another hard-boiled hard-luck song showcasing some wicked saxophone, and "Invitation to the Blues."

    This is easily one of Tom Waits' greatest efforts, though you can't go wrong with any of his earliest albums. Like I said, everything here is excellent, but "Small Change" alone is worth the money.

    ...more info
  • What more can be said
    Hmm... from the opening stretches of piano & strings in "Tom Trauberts Blues" to the wrap-up of "I Can't Wait to Get Off Work" this cd is a masterful example of musical storytelling. The character meeting his demise in the title song, the man flipping his quarter while leaning on his lampost, the drunken piano man blaming everyone else, just gorgeous. I believe that this album came out the month I was born as well....more info
  • ah, to have "step right up" playing in my head nonstop
    while the ballads here are generally superior to those found on blue valentine, this album really proves that tom waits' primary talent lies in delivering the gritty carnivalesque stuff, the back-alley jazz. "step right up"--one of tom waits' best songs and one of my personal favorites--and "pasties and a g-string" play to his strengths and indicate the rougher, more eclectic style that he would turn to with the release of swordfishtrombones. thankfully, he never looked back....more info
  • His best, and that's saying a lot
    One of my favorite albums of all time, this one just gets better every time I play it. Among my favorite tracks: "Tom Traubert's Blues" is the essence of noir, "Pasties and A G-String" tells you everything you need to know about the lost world of burlesque in a single song, and "Step Right Up" details the cosmic history of the white rap tradition (Sideshow barkers, Medicine Show grifters, tobacco auctioneers, tentshow Preachers). This album is the aural equivalent of a rain-soaked night on the sleazy side of town, a sonic masterpiece by one of our best musicians, a unique and distinctly American voice. If you don't know Tom Waits and want to, this is the album to buy, and if you do know him and don't have it, what are you waiting for?...more info
  • An Amazing Album. His Best Work Ever.
    This album commands your full attention and transports you to a world of Boozers, Prostitutes, Gamblers, and the true "Underbelly" of society.
    "Invitation to the Blues" and "Jitterbug Boy" are the albums highlights.
    Listening to this collection of somber and morose selections actually bring you into these songs ,which are actually like short little stories.
    They rip your heart out and force you to visualize characters that only Tom Waits can introduce you to. Lets face it, Tom Waits is not for everyone but for anyone who enjoys great melodies and songs that tell stories, this is a must. This is nothing short than a wonderful album and a true piece of art. ...more info
  • A masterpiece
    This was the very first Tom Waits album I bought and my God...I was speechless after hearing it. When the album opened with Tom Traubert's Blues, I was instantly addicted to it. That song broke my heart and put it back together again, finally had I found a singer that sang with the voice of my own scarred heart and soul. And that's something that I am constantly reminded of throughout the albums of the poet and genius that is mr. Tom Waits....more info
  • Vintage Tom Waits
    A little scat, a little be-bop, a little blues--but all Tom Waits. For fans of the singer's more recent works, this CD will take them back to the strip clubs and night life described in his earlier songs. It took me a while to get acclimated to this album, but now I like it just fine....more info
  • Ugh. Fear the Genius of it. It will hurt you.
    Listening to this album you can't help but understand why we were given ears. It's a foggy, back of the throat, whiskey and cigarettes album, which is obvious enough if you're a Waits fan. But it's just so pretty. You might try and write odes to it if you're so inclined. The muses have all taken the night trainout of Greece and gone to visit Tom to sit on his lap and whisper in his ear. It's what the Beats wanted to do but failed at. Its the musical equivalent of The Dead. It's divinity. It should be sung in churches with a full choir of drunkards.

    The Piano has Been Drinking is one of the most comical song poems i've ever had the pleasure to imbibe. Bad Liver and A Broken Heart- Come on. The title is good enough to cruise on. Small Change is right up there with Romeo is Bleeding from the Blue Valentine CD as one of the greatest storytelling tunes ever recorded....more info

  • Small Change- The first installment of a brilliant trilogy
    While much hoopla has been made of Tom Waits' early 80's "Frank's Wild Years" trilogy,let's not forget the brilliant work of "Small Change,"Foreign Affair" and "Blue Valentine" from the mid to late 70's.I've long maintained that Waits'career could be divided into three categories:The early,folksy troubadorism of "Closing Time" and "The Heart of Saturday Night",
    the "street poet at the piano" of the aforementioned trilogy,and the sonic,avante-gard expressionist of the 80's and 90's.
    "Small Change" is a brilliant,essential work that both documents and celebrates the late night barfly lifestyle our hero had come to lovingly embrace at the time.From the first sung lyrics of the impossibly beautiful "Tom Traubert's Blues"- "Wasted and wounded,it ain't what the moon did,got what I paid for now" the mood is set for a joyride in a broken down jalopy through trash-strewn streets at 4am,past the hookers,transients,all-night diner's and strip joints that

    haunt Waits' work from this era.His voice,ravaged by alcohol,cigarettes,and God know what else (remember this a guy who lived in a 9 dollar a night motel writing songs for the better part of a decade)maintains a beautiful quality and annotates these tales confidently.There's "Jitterbug Boy",the story of a drunk "holding up a lamp post",bragging of how he's done it all,from sleeping with Marilyn Monroe to having breakfast in the eye of a hurricane,all the while burning hundred dollar bills.On the classic "Invitation to the Blues",
    we get the best song Springsteen never wrote.A business man just about to leave town falls for a waitress at a greasy spoon,
    gives up his seat on the next bus out of town,and accepts her "invitation".Waits makes fun of corporate America's sale tactics on "Step right up",with a hilarious impression of a frenzied pitchman selling you "the only product you will ever need".Ironically Waits sued corporate America and won when Frito-Lay tried using the song to sell their chips without permission.
    The title track is a jarring narrative half spoken,half sung
    about a gangster named "Small Change" that gets "rained on with his own .38".If you've come to know Waits' work through
    his 80's/90's offerings,keep in mind that work was a complete departure from his original motif,and I'd reccomend starting with "Heartattack and Vine" and working your way back.
    But if you're a fan of America's best songwriters like Dylan,Springsteen,Robertson,et al,step right up to the
    real deal.Those guys at one time or another had hit singles aplenty,but not Tom Waits.His stuff isn't just an observance of streetlife,booze,guns,fast women,loneliness and isolation,
    it's a chronicled,first hand account of someone who truly LIVED it.And that don't make the top 40.
    My advice would be to grab a bottle of anything on a rainy night
    and play "Small Change",Foreign Affair" and "Blue Valentine" in a row and watch as the unlikeliest of musical heroes rises from your speakers and talks to your heart and soul as if he was sittin' right there with ya,sharin' that bottle....more info

  • brialliant, perfect
    With Small Change, Tom Waits has shown that he is THE heavyweight romantic poet of the latter twentieth century. So eloquent, so moving are these songs that the listener becomes infused with a warm glow. And the more you play it, the more you hear. His sly, deep blues vocal style has the power to knock you over every time. And then there is his musicianship- these are GREAT SONGS. Probably the best of all his seventeen albums....more info