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One of two 2002 concept albums! Tender set of ballads, based on Lewis Carroll's muse for "Alice In Wonderland".
The grizzled modern persona of Tom Waits finds new life on Alice, a slow, grave record that explores physical and moral decay with the same harrowing insight of 1992's Bone Machine. Originally written as an opera with his longtime songwriting partner, playwright Kathleen Brennan, the songs on Alice were performed live in a Hamburg theater for 18 months in 1992 and 1993, but were never committed to tape (officially, at least). This studio recording retains a sense of narrative cohesion, giving Waits a set of tormented and bizarre characters that go well with the motley crew he's assembled over the years. It is, in fact, the most consistent record of Waits's career, offering not only a stable train of thought, but a musical approach that, while featuring the same vaudevillian touches that have characterized his work since Swordfishtrombones, finds a voice all its own. Without much percussion to back them up, violins, cellos, and horns dominate the record, bathing Waits's familiar growl in a sly, slow cacophony that sounds like an underwater fugue, the notes like rust on the strings. "Watch Her Disappear," with its sparse, sad pump organ, and the twisted torch song "Reeperbahn" have the smoky café mystery of Edith Piaf by way of Leonard Cohen, recovered from the water-logged tapes in Cole Porter's long-lost dingy. It's a burst of dark, world-weary poetry for lonely Saturday nights, cloudy days on the beach, or long strolls through graveyards. --Matthew Cooke
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Top Customer Reviews
The album is based loosely around the life and work of Charles Dodgson, known to the world as Lewis Carroll, author of the Alice in Wonderland books. The songs mostly comment on his famous obsession with a neighbor girl named Alice, for whom he wrote the beloved books. However, this album is not, as some critics maintain, about "intergenerational relationships", but more about hopeless love in general.
The album's tone is that of a sinister fairy-tale for grownups. It begins with the brilliantly sultry title song, which sets forth the subject and obsession of the entire work. The next track, "Everything you can Think," paints a vivid and surrealist picture of a horrifying sort of wonderland--"Everything you can think of is true / the dish ran away with the spoon / look deep in your heart for the little, red glow / we're decomposing as we go."
As many critics have pointed out, Alice is more weighted toward soft, slow ballads than the average Waits album. This is true; musically it is more accessible than, say, Bone Machine. But there is enough other material to make the CD feel balanced. "Kommienezeupadt", though many object to its presence on this disc, is actually a nice contrast to the other material and is an enjoyably insane track. "Table-Top Joe" is a very fun song, and reveals the amazing versatility of Tom Waits' voice.
But the real strength comes in the heartbreaking ballads. It is impossible to choose a favorite song on here, since there really are no weak links.Read more ›
Waits is an acquired taste under the best of circumstances. In this case, the music on both discs are meant to complement performance pieces from Robert Wilson, but since I haven't seen them, I am left to deal with these on their own merits. ALICE, ayear hence, has driven me to tears. It is beautiful and powerful, and seems to get past Waits' "Charles Bukowski has a drink with Kurt Weill" elements to paint a picture of intense missed chances, bizarre characters and the poignancy of a life that has walked through the fire.
His bizarre elemnts are in full force on pieces such as "Kommeienzuspat", "Table Top Joe" (a first cousin, no doubt to the "Eyeball Kid") and "We're all Mad." This is Waits at his megaphoned, cement mixer, Outer Limits best, subversive trombones and strings whinging around in all manner of odd-metre rhythms. Intoxicatingly luridly looking into a world that your subconscious does not want you to sneak a peak of.
And as the bizarre threatens to careen off some bank and make away with the whole proceedings, other tunes rise up and break your heart. "Alice", "Flowers Grave", "Fish and Bird" and "Barcarolle" are among the most emotionally compelling songs he has ever written. And like all trult great Waits tunes, no one could ever deliver these songs with the lived in honesty that Waits does. By the end of "Barcarolle" I was heartbroken in ways I haven't been in years. Something was gone from me on the inside. This is pwerful stuff.Read more ›
Then started the wild discussion of which one is the best. For a while I couldn't decide, but now, after some time has passed, "Alice" by far stands out as the superior one in my opinion.
"Alice" is most definitely for the lovers of the balladeer and Kurt Weill side of Tom Waits. It's a rather quiet album, not at all as experimental as "Frank's Wild Years" and "The Black Rider". Also, it's a rather serious and sinister piece of work. Waits appears like a patient funeral agent, who knows that no matter what you do, he will get you in the end.
There are so many beautiful, heart touching melodies on this album, I can't but regard it as one of his absolutely best albums, maybe even THE best.
"Alice" is a great work by a unique artist. It gets my vote for the best album released in 2002.
The album may be a difficult listen for someone who hasn't heard at least a few Tom Waits songs, besides 'Jersey Girl'. Waits sticks to mainly winds, strings and, with some sparse percussion and the occasional guitar. Only 'We're All Mad Here' strongly resembles anything possibly from 'Bone Machine' or 'Rain Dogs'. This album is strongly recommended as a companion piece of the simultaneously released 'Blood Money' but does stand very well on its own. This is definitely one of Tom Waits' most consistent records, which can be good or bad depending on what side of Tom Waits is most favored. Also recommended is 'Bone Machine' which may be just as harrowing and grave as 'Alice' and 'Blood Money'.
Most recent customer reviews
With that being said, I was kind of dissipointed with this, with comparrison to it's sister release at the same time "Blood Money". Read morePublished on Feb. 26 2004 by Anapanasati
Another gem of the supertalented mr. Waits.
It looks like almost everything has already been said about this man on these reviews so I can only recommend his admirers to... Read more
First, I really like Tom Waits. However, after listening to this I am wondering what state of mind I would have to be in to enjoy this stuff. Read morePublished on Oct. 8 2003 by D. A. Cvengros
great stuff from start to finish. tom waits proves right here that just because you're getting older doesn't mean your music has to suck. my favorite track off here is Poor Edward. Read morePublished on Sept. 29 2003 by mellowgold
Too much ink has been spilled over Tom Waits for me to add anything of great value to his legacy. Let me just say this "lost masterpiece" might just prove to be his best... Read morePublished on July 10 2003 by Stephen Haske
ok, i'm a big tom waits fan, but Alice is his best song ever! can't really separate 'em, i guess, sort of build on each other, but this one is supreme! Read morePublished on June 27 2003 by BRUCE C JOHNSTON
Listening to Tom Waits over the years can be a jarring experience. From the exquisite Jazz-inspired tracks on Closing Time to the swinging pendulum of grit and delicacy on... Read morePublished on June 20 2003 by EMD
This CD is strong all the way through, with two exceptions, for me anyway (Flower's Grave and Lost in the Harbour). Read morePublished on March 23 2003 by Justin