Tom Waits: Closing Time (50th Anniversary Vinyl Reissue) (ANTI-) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Tom Waits

Closing Time (50th Anniversary Vinyl Reissue)


Jun 28, 2023 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Tom Waits’ dazzling debut record Closing Time turns 50 this year and, as is the custom it seems, gets reissued on vinyl. This record could be issued on any format, from wax cylinder to 8-track tape to MP3 and it would still sound incredible.

Waits has recorded many, many fine records, but none are as beautifully realized as his first. In 1973, you couldn’t walk 100 feet in any direction without bumping into an earnest singer/songwriter, but he was different. While his contemporaries looked at the folk tradition for inspiration, he just went to his local bar. The 12 songs on Closing Time all reek of the type of lowlife drinking establishments that your parents warned you about. Waits sounds like he was just the right side of drunk when he recorded these songs, which imbues tracks like “Ol’ 55” and “I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love with You” with the unvarnished truth you only get from people who are drinking to forget something. But they can’t.

Closing Time sounds gorgeous. For the most part, it’s a small ensemble (occasionally augmented with tasteful strings) beautifully captured by Jerry Yester. “Lonely,” however, is something else. Waits, accompanying himself on piano manages to sing the word “lonely” 30 times and mean it every time. Yester makes sure that every word Waits sings and every piano chord he plays, sounds like it is coming from the heart of a man who has lost everything. That’s followed by the tipsy barroom romp of “Ice Cream Man” where Waits lasciviously croons: “When you’re tired and you’re hungry and you want something cool/Got something better than a swimming pool.”

The standout track on Closing Time is “Martha.” A beautiful, soulful story of the intensity of first love. The string arrangement and Waits’ simple, unvarnished lyric combine to make an incredibly emotional piece of music. If anyone can hear the final line—“And I remember quiet evenings/Trembling close to you”—and not get a lump in their throat, they really need to listen to it again until they do.

With Closing Time, Waits managed to combine the romance of a heartsick drunk with beautiful, sympathetic musical arrangements to create something that is both poetic and durable. Few debuts come close to the level of quiet confidence on display here. It’s been reissued. You should buy it. (

Author rating: 9/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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