Alice and Blood Money are the newest releases from Tom Waits and they're everything you'd expect. Both were written by Waits and wife Kathleen Brennan. They're songs dug out of the dirt and put on display. His voice has moved from gravel to boulders and sand. The stories are darker and more enticing than ever and the music is the perfect vehicle for his words. I heard him on "Fresh Air" only a few days ago and I can't decide if his music is like this because he's a true freak or if it's the other way around. These albums are worth buying for the pictures of Waits in them alone.

Alice was written for a stage production by Robert Wilson "loosely based on Alice Liddell, the young girl who was the obsession and muse of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland books". The songs are mostly slow and gentle and lack some of the more characteristic caustic and barking fucked-up-circus songs one expects from Waits. "I'm Still Here" is almost a tear jerker. The closest to twisted the album gets is "We're All Mad Here", but you can tell he's pulling the punch. "Kommienezuspadt" is the only outcast here, it's any angry march through a vaudevillian concentration camp.

Blood Money on the other hand, does not spare the rod. Another production of Wilson's that entitled "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." With an opening track featuring a gruff, barking Waits explaining the title "Misery is the River of the World" ('everybody row. everybody row.'), you know you're in for a rough ride. It's as if the punches he was pulling on Alice had to work themselves out somewhere. With track titles like "Everything Goes to Hell", and "Knife Chase" (which is actually an instrumental) the album lurches from one spot on the stage to the next like a drunken star. It's not without it's quiet moments though. It features songs like "Coney Island Baby" and "Lullaby" which are touching and gentle. The dynamics of the play must have had a part to play in the album's creation, but it's obvious from a few spins of the album in its entirety that the play is not a happy one.

"I like a beautiful song that tells you terrible things. We all like bad news out of a pretty mouth." - Tom Waits One other treat, Tom Waits tells us about his favorite albums on Amazon -- this is great to read!