Tom Waits and Crystal Gale Create Magic Together on Waits' Most Accessible Outing: Small Combo Band Provides Jazzy and Bluesy Support
One from the Heart ranks among the best soundtracks in history. Essential for any Tom Waits or Crystal Gayle devotee, it sets an example of what's not only possible, but should be expected and demanded, when two likeminded artists collaborate. Heartstrings are tugged, passions kindled and lost, sentiments exchanged, skeletons dragged out of closets, seasons changed, romantic truisms cited. And its wide-open sound is supreme, the result of most tracks being recorded live in the studio, free of after-effects and interference.
Inspired by a track Waits cut with Bette Midler on his Foreign Affairs effort, One from the Heart overflows with simpatico chemistry, poignant contrast, elegant atmospherics, and awestruck intimacy. On their four vocal duets, Gayle and Waits inhabit the personas of a man and woman breaking apart yet sharing common bonds. Their singing plumbs emotional depths that traverse melancholy, sensuality, and understanding. Made before Waits' baritone turned into a deep, gravel-laden instrument, the songs are more smoke than whiskey, more piano-man empathy than hipster growler.
Written by Waits, the music occupies a common ground between laidback small-combo jazz, lounge pop, and downbeat blues. Classy string orchestrations abet a crack ensemble comprised of saxophonist Terry Edwards, drummer Shelly Manne, pianist Pete Jolly, bassist Greg Cohen, and others. The arrangements seamlessly melt into both vocalists' leads, allowing every note – every piano clink, acoustic bass ripple, brushed snare drum – to register with utmost magnitude.
Experienced on stunning soliloquy pieces such as Gayle's mournful ballad "Is There Any Way Out of This Dream?" and back-and-forth collaborative efforts like the breakup take "Picking Up After You," beautiful instrumentation, spacious production, and flawless vocal phrasing take hold. You can picture the broken dreams exiting out the side doors of the dim bars and abandoned houses that pepper the narratives. Renowned for his sad songs, Waits has never been in better form, the goodbye fare clicking with unflinching honesty and personality.