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Foreign Affairs


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Audio CD, May 11, 1990
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Tom Waits and Keith Richards from SON OF ROGUES GALLERY

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Tom Waits, according to the esteemed American critic Robert Hilburn, is “clearly one of the most important figures of the modern pop era.” Such sentiments are not mere hyperbole; in a career that now spans four decades and over 20 albums, Tom Waits has emerged as an extraordinary innovative force, a singular voice whose music remains determinedly—and even ... Read more in Amazon's Tom Waits Store

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Foreign Affairs + Heart Attack & Vine + Blue Valentine
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 11, 1990)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Elektra / Wea
  • ASIN: B000002GYF
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,661 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Cinny's Waltz
2. Muriel
3. I Never Talk To Strangers
4. Medley: Jack & Neal/California, Here I Come
5. A Sight For Sore Eyes
6. Potter's Field
7. Burma-Shave
8. Barber Shop
9. Foreign Affair

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

WAITS TOM FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Amazon.com

Welcome to the hipster blues. By the time of this 1977 recording, Tom Waits had fully transformed himself into a musical character actor from another era, caught somewhere between Raymond Chandler and the Beat Generation. His vocals here are some of the most mannered performances this side of Bukowski (and probably had something to do with the movie roles he won in the coming years). His use of strings on some of these tracks can occasionally drift dangerously close to schmaltz, but that's easily compensated by such highlights as his duet with Bette Midler on "I Never Talk to Strangers" and the breathless melodrama of "Burma-Shave." Cool. --Steve Appleford

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 2, 1997
Format: Audio CD
Foreign Affairs wanders across nine tracks, exploring lonely souls, capricious youth, bar pick-ups, haircuts, and billboard advertisements for shaving. Through "traveling abroad" Waits refocused himself on America and that which is uniquely American. The open-road freedom of "Jack and Neal" is both a tribute to Kerouac and Cassidy and a tribute to the distinct freedom of the American road, the dreams that stretch out before one, and the promise of the West. The theme is revisited on "Burma Shave," where the promise of the horizon ends up a twisted wreck by the side of the road. The song, written as a tribute to Presley, is among Wait's finest creations. There's more here too. As a bouncer Waits often wrote down overheard conversations, and "I Never Talk to Strangers" with Bette Midler is precisely that, an everyday conversation set to piano and tenor sax. Likewise, "Muriel" is a lamentation over swizzle sticks and cigarettes for the one that got away. Waits along with Hopper, is the greatest chroniclery of American lonliness. The intimacy of his sound surpasses that of the printed word, and so draws the listener in that by the end of the CD you are sure your shirt smells like a stale barroom... END
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By M. Grigoryan on September 19, 2000
Format: Audio CD
It looks like Tom Waits just took a small break between creating two genuine masterpieces "SMALL CHANGE" and "BLUE VALENTINES". Giving this album 4 stars is a relief and a support for the listeners' objectiveness as one would feel uncomfortable and unfair rating all TW's albums 5 stars. "Muriel" is a beatiful ballad, the duo with Bette Midler sounds very nice but the true gem of "FOREIGN AFFAIRS" is, of course "Burma Shave" - a breathtaking song that sets the mood for the whole album.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 2, 1999
Format: Audio CD
I like 'Foreign Affairs' more every time I listen to it, and I get cravings for it when I haven't heard it for a while. Tom is at the pinnacle of his beat period, and his song-writing has matured very well. It is a truly a beautiful album.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bill R. Moore on March 26, 2002
Format: Audio CD
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.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Big Jilm on December 26, 1999
Format: Audio CD
I love every album Tom has made, but in my opinion this should be one of the last you buy. It's got some great songs (especially Burma Shave)but the album as a whole seems incomplete to me. More of a stepping stone from great albums to even greater albums. If you're looking for good old stuff get Small Change, Blue Valentine, Nighthawks first; then pick this one up.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By DanD VINE VOICE on February 24, 2007
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
FOREIGN AFFAIRS is one of Waits's most engaging jazzy albums...its lyrics are so dark and poetic, you'll be drawn in instantly, recognizing immediately within yourself the heartache these characters are going through. If nothing else, you can fall back on the hometown hopelessness of "A Sight For Sore Eyes" (which opens with "Auld Lang Syne"), or the gin-soaked romantic banter between Waits and Bette Midler on "I Never Talk to Strangers" (a tune which would inspire the future Tom Waits-Chrystal Gayle masterpiece ONE FROM THE HEART album). There's the cool "Burma Shave" and the catchy "Jack & Neal" (that sax intro will grab you by the ears and haul your butt in). FOREIGN AFFAIRS is one of the best "early" Waits albums, and showcases why this masterful singer/songwriter deserves a pedestal in the Musicians Hall of Fame. We'd better put him in a far, back corner, though...he might scare off the uninitiated.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jay DeKing on November 16, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Even though I wouldn't rate this as Waits' best work, it's still a must-have. Of course, I think that all of his work is worth owning; he is the greatest songwriter living today. I guess what I like least about this album is the general lounge-lizard sound of most of the performances. Probably the only album that I like less is Big Time, but I still wouldn't consider my collection complete without either of these; there are real treasures on both CDs that make them worth owning.
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