Small Change was the culmination of Tom Waits's piano/strings/barstool philosopher hijinxs, and Foreign Affairs, his next album, is more of a transitional album than it is given credit for. Waits clearly felt the need to branch out somewhat, as he did less subtly on his next two albums leading up to the full-on re-invention of Swordfishtrombones. He had been delivering Beat-worthy jazz raps for several albums by this point, but Foreign Affairs was the first album where the music seemed to matter quite as much as the lyrics. It opens with the beautiful instrumental, Cinny's Waltz, and the music is strong throughout - from the tinkling piano of A Sight For Sore Eyes to the lush orchestrations of Potter's Field. As I mentioned, Tom was branching out a bit at this point, and, thus, the album is a bit schizophrenic by nature. The first half of the album mostly consists of fairly concise (for Tom, anyway) ballads - such as the quaint Muriel; the duet with Bette Midler on I Never Talk To Strangers (on which her vocal is horrendus in my opinion, but doesn't ruin the clever lyric); and the nice song A Sight For Sore Eyes. The second half of the album, on the other hand, consists mostly of long, drawn out acid jazz raps - such as the 8 and 1/2 minute schizo freak-out masterpiece Potter's Field, and the witty, Burma Shave. Jack & Neal (the title characters being two of Tom's more obvious Beat predecessors) is another one of these songs. It is true that, if you like any of Tom Wait's 70's album, then you will enjoy all of his records at least through Heart Attack & Vine (my advice if you like them is to just grab 'em all up: you'll be addicted), but this is a particularly nice, and somewhat distinctive one, for several reasons. It's perhaps the best of his early albums musically, and it features perhaps his best free-form jazz raps - including some of his most hilarous lyrics (Jack & Neal being an absolute "laugh out loud.") Reccommended for any Waits fan.