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Blood Money

Blood Money

4.3 11
by Tom Waits

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The underlying concept of Blood Money -- that of a German soldier, driven so mad by his role as a medical guinea pig that he ends up murdering his girlfriend in cold blood -- isn't exactly the stuff of party albums. But doggone it if Tom Waits doesn't practically force you to dig into this Grand Guignol feast and enjoy it. Sonically, the songs on Blood Money


The underlying concept of Blood Money -- that of a German soldier, driven so mad by his role as a medical guinea pig that he ends up murdering his girlfriend in cold blood -- isn't exactly the stuff of party albums. But doggone it if Tom Waits doesn't practically force you to dig into this Grand Guignol feast and enjoy it. Sonically, the songs on Blood Money -- which Waits wrote with longtime collaborator Kathleen Brennan for a sociopolitical play called Woyzeck -- rank the album among Waits's wilder ones. There's a hint of his trademark calliope music, a dash of Charles Aznavour-styled crooning, and a bedrock of the stomping art-blues that marked his mid-'80s offerings. He sets the tone early on, regaling listeners with a pair of short, sharp pieces that leave little doubt about where his characters, or his listeners, are heading. "Misery Is the River of the World" stealthily seeps into the edgy, muttered "Everything Goes to Hell" with a creepy élan -- a spell that's briefly broken by the unabashedly lovely, heart-on-sleeve dedication of "Coney Island Baby." The sweetness and light don't last long, however, since Waits is soon off pondering divine malfunction on the sardonic "God's Away on Business" and sprinkling biblical metaphor into the woozy "Starving in the Belly of the Whale." By album's end, Waits sounds irrevocably convinced that we're all utterly doomed to suffer "Woe" and permanently bemoan "The Part You Throw Away." Blood Money is guaranteed to make you think -- and pretty likely to keep you up at night after your first listen.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
Tom Waits has said: "I like a beautiful song that tells you terrible things. We all like bad news out of a pretty mouth." When it comes to the material on Blood Money, I don't know if I can call Waits' mouth pretty, but he certainly offers plenty of bad news in a very attractive, compelling way. Released simultaneously with Alice, a recording of songs written in 1990, Blood Money is a set of 13 songs written by Waits and Kathleen Brennan in collaboration with dramatist Robert Wilson. The project was a loose adaptation of the play Woyzeck, originally written by German poet Georg Buchner in 1837. The play was inspired by the true story of a German soldier who was driven mad by bizarre army medical experiments and infidelity, which led him to murder his lover -- cheery stuff, to be sure. Thematically, this work -- with its references to German cabarets and nostalgia -- echoes Waits' other Wilson collaborative project, Black Rider. Musically, however, Blood Money is a far more elegant, stylish, and nuanced work than the earlier recording. With bluesman Charlie Musselwhite, reedman Colin Stetson, bassist and guitarist Larry Taylor, marimbist Andrew Borger, and others -- Waits plays piano, organ, marimba, calliope, and guitar -- this is a theater piece that feels like a collection of songs that reflect a perverse sense of black humor and authentic wickedness in places. The protagonists of these songs are so warped and wasted by life that they are caricatures; it's impossible not to like them and to not be repulsed by yourself for doing so. For starters, the set opens with "Misery Is the River of the World," a circus-like tango wrapped around a series of dialectical aphorisms: "If there's one thing you can say about mankind/There's nothing kind about man." When a piano cascades up a minor scale in dramatic showmanship, Waits chants the refrain, "Misery is the river of the world," with seeming delight. On "God's Away on Business" (with guests Stewart Copeland on drums and PJ Harvey guitarist Joe Gore) the rhythm first displayed on Bone Machine resurfaces and fills out the backbeat. It's almost a march in its depth and dimension, giving the entire track the feeling of an evil seven dwarfs about to roast Snow White for dinner: "I'd sell your heart to the junkman, baby/For a buck, for a buck/If you're looking for someone to pull you out of that ditch/You're out of luck, out of luck." This is bleak, disturbing, and hysterically funny. It's not all snakes and alligators, however. In "Coney Island Baby," Waits delivers one of his most memorable and moving love songs while playing the chamberlain in front of the band, who plays an old-time waltz laced through with gorgeous cello and trumpet slipping ethereally through the mix. Waits croons without affectation or droopy sentiment: "Every night she comes/To take me out to dreamland/When I'm with her/I'm the richest man in the town/She's a rose/She's a pearl/She's the spin on my world/All the stars make wishes on her eyes." Likewise, the track that follows it, "All the World Is Green," is a paean of love from the soldier to his wife and "Another Man's Vine" boasts the most overtly sensuous use of the word "bougainvillea" in a pop song. In all, Blood Money, like its sister, Alice, is a record steeped in musical and lyrical traditions barely remembered by popular culture and hence very rarely evoked (from carnival marches to tarantellas, primitive tangos, and early 20th century jazz). This isn't the other side of Tin Pan Alley, but an appreciation for and evocation of the music of the Weimar Republic with its easy pathos and often grotesque funhouse humor. That said, this appreciation does not make for a re-creation; Waits' music is his own from this particular place in time, but it illustrates and illuminates particular kinds of human foibles from the present era and celebrates them as human nonetheless.

Product Details

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Tom Waits   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Piano,Calliope,Electric Guitar,Vocals,chamberlain,Pump Organ,Toy Piano
Charlie Musselwhite   Harmonica
Stewart Copeland   Drums,Log Drums
Matthew Brubeck   Bass,Cello
Larry Taylor   Acoustic Guitar,Bass,Electric Guitar
Myles Boisen   Guitar
Bent Clausen   Bass Drums,Marimbas
Joe Gore   Electric Guitar
Nick Phelps   Trumpet,Tenor Tuba
Gino Robair   Bongos,Gong,Marimbas,Bells,Timpani,Floor Tom
Dan Plonsey   Clarinet
Andrew Borger   Marimbas
Colin Stetson   Clarinet,Bass Clarinet,Baritone Horn,Saxophone,Alto Saxophone,Baritone Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone
Ara Anderson   Trumpet
Dawn Harms   Violin
Bebe Risenfors   Accordion
Casey Waits   Drums

Technical Credits

Tom Waits   Producer
Kathleen Brennan   Producer
Bent Clausen   Contributor
Oz Fritz   Engineer
Mule Patterson   Contributor
Allen Sudduth   Engineer
Heather Fremling   Contributor
Jeff Abarta   Art Direction
Jacquire King   Engineer
Jeff Sloan   Engineer
Jesse Dylan   Concept
Matthew Sperry   Basic Track
Richard Fisher   Studio Support

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Blood Money 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Blood Money & Alice are quite simply the best productions Tom Waits has given out yet... I ordered them both before they were released,in order to be sured to have them as fast as possible:) I'm willing to state that These two albums are the Definitive Tom Waits anthology as it combines both the modern productions (Black Rider,Mule Variations) with his older style..
Guest More than 1 year ago
starving in the belly of a whale is the most beautiful full-throttle madness tom has ever created. only filipino box spring hog comes close. it makes bone machine sound tame. alice is good, but the title track may be a disappointment if you're a fan of the old demo version. neither sounds like the expected progression after mule variations, but they were written before mv, so they shouldn't. don't get me wrong, these are the best 2 albums you'll hear this year, buy em both, but blood money's highs are higher than alice's. again, BUY THEM BOTH.
Guest More than 1 year ago
On my first full, close listen to Blood Money, I was certain it was my favorite Tom Waits album. It combines the best parts of the ''Holy Trilogy'' (Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs, Frank's Wild Years) with his more recent material (The Black Rider, Bone Machine) seamlessly. After repeated listening, I am fairly certain this is my favorite album by any atrist - EVER. If you like Tom Waits (how could you not?), you need to buy this album. Now.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am truly a devout Tom Waits fan, and I must say that these two new works (Blood Money and Alice) are great accomplishments. However, I don not agree that this is some of Tom's strongest material, as mentioned in a number of other reviews. The dark and foreboding world addressed in both these albums limits the content significantly. Subsequently, the songs sound more alike than any recent Waits release. I realize militant Waits fans will disagree, but play Blood Money against something as varied and expansive as Frank's Wild Years, Rain Dogs or Mule Variations and you'll see my point. Obviously these two new works are themed by story more than the standard studio albums, as they are meant to accompany theatrical works. I'm sure the theatrical works are dazzling, but since here we are supplied only with the audio, it comes across as a little repetitive. Tom Waits brilliance lies in his descriptions and the creation of the musical atmosphere in a world that he creates, rather than describing the world or work of others.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Blood Money¿ and ¿Alice¿ are head-aches when one must decide which is Tom¿s best work ever. I say it¿s good. I say it¿s perfect, but what isn¿t in Tom Waits¿ music?
Guest More than 1 year ago
This album is fantastic--my favorite album from one of my favorite artists.
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