Videos by American Songwriter
A translucent blue vinyl for Alice and a translucent red version for Blood Money will be available on the official Tom Waits merchandise store with other variants available at independent record stores and online. Prior to the re-release of both albums, Waits is sharing previously unreleased live versions of songs on both albums, beginning with “All the World is Green” from Blood Money and “Fish and Bird,” off Alice.
“All the World is Green” was recorded during a live show in Milan, Italy, and features a faux flamenco guitar intro, while “Fish and Bird” is pulled from Waits’ return to London in 2004, and features a stripped-down rendition of the song—which featured a chamber orchestra arrangement in the studio recording—on piano.
Both albums were inspired by the stories around the future staged productions and were released after Waits highly success 13th album, the Grammy Award winning (for Best Contemporary Folk Album) Mule Variations.
Alice, based loosely on Alice Liddell, the girl who inspired Lewis Carroll’s 1865 classic Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, was initially created for an avant-garde opera directed by Robert Wilson for Hamburg’s Thalia Theater in1992. The album was the second collaboration for Waits and his wife Kathleen Brennan with Wilson. The couple previously worked with director and playwright on the 1990 production of The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets, which was conceived by Wilson, along with Waits and William S. Burroughs.
The songs of Alice are “part of a cycle where each track relates to what comes before and what will follow, a puzzle that reveals itself as it unfurls and marks a compositionally bold step forward for Waits,” according to a descriptor, backed by lush instrumentation of pump organ, French horns, vibraphone, bass saxophones, and bass, violin and cello. A Stroh violin, a 19th century instrument with an attached horn allowing string players to be heard over an orchestra’s brass section, was also used on the album.
“During the ’70s, too many of my songs were drowning in strings,” said Waits of the more experimental arrangements on Alice, in a statement. “I didn’t want to hear another blasted violin. So, we found string players who felt the same way about their instrument, formed an odd, skeletal chamber orchestra and tried to avoid all the old familiar phrases where strings love to play.”
Blood Money, also released in 2002, see-saws from delicate to darker renderings exploring love and mortality. Based on the socio-political play Woyzeck, originally written by German poet Georg Buchner in 1837 and inspired by the true story of a German soldier who was driven mad by bizarre army medical experiments that led him to murder his lover, Waits and Brennan wrote the songs of Blood Money for the production of Woyzeck, a third collaboration with Wilson that premiered in 2000 at the Betty Nansen Theater in Copenhagen, Denmark. The show later won the Danish equivalent of a Tony Award for Best Musical.
“‘Blood Money’ is flesh and bone, earthbound,” said Waits. “The songs are rooted in reality: jealousy, rage, the human meat wheel. They are more carnal. Kathleen and I are well suited to this material. She is hilarious, blasphemous, and ominous. I like a beautiful song that tells you terrible things.”
Photo: Courtesy of Tom Waits / ANTI- Records