Nighthawks at the Diner, 1975

Nighthawks at the Diner
A timeless live-in-studio performance by one of the most original artists of the past 30 years. This album has the distinctly bohemian feel of a smoky Greenwich village cafe transplanted onto the blooming desert wasteland of the Los Angeles metropolitan region. His lyrics are random and poetic, sketching out shifty characters and strange misadventures straight out of Waits' "narcotic American night." Jazz backed and swaggering, Waits lures you into his lurid underworld of all-night diners and forgotten truck stops. Nighthawks resounds with the intimacy of a small night club caught in the midst of an inspired after-hours session. Waits swings and rhymes over walking bass lines, lightly brushed cymbals, and breathy saxophones, creating an atmosphere heavy with smoke and the clang of empty bottles. Opening the album with a comically bleak "Emotional Weather Report," Waits sets the tone of what is to follow, singing with self-effacing candor about his alcohol drenched loneliness and desperation. "Eggs and Sausage" aches beautifully with a hunger that can't be satisfied by the greasy fare and heartburn of late-night dives. -John Ballon