Tom Waits – Alice

2002 – Anti Records

If you have ever been around a campfire with me, you have surely listened to some Tom Waits. This is one artist that I come back to again and again. I first heard Alice a few years after it initially was released, but only recently have dug into it. I credit the deeper listen with owning the vinyl. This is a very laid back and slow album, but there is a lot to unpack. Having the vinyl makes you sit down and really listen to the music, which is what this album calls for. This album sounds like you have travelled to an alternate dimension, where everything is a little bit off. Looking through the credits, and knowing much of Wait’s music, there are many instruments mentioned that are not commonplace. Instead of going into each of these tracks, I thought it would be interesting to do some quick research on some of these instruments. Here we go:

            Mellotron – this is a keyboard instrument that works by using magnetic tape. If the tape is used in different sections, different sounds can be produced. This was used by the Beatles, Moody Blues, King Crimson, and many other prog rock bands.

            Chamberlin Vibes – this is a precursor to the mellotron. Waits apparently wanted the original sound, no reproductions would do.

            Swiss Hand Bells – this is literally what it says it is, bells held in your hands and rung. They are pitched. They are used very well in the music, it is hard to distinguish them, they are just part of the whole sound, which is great.

            Stroh Violin – these are those cool looking violins that have a sound bell coming out of them. I never knew what they were called. Listening to Wait’s music, the visual of these violins as opposed to the normal version, fits perfectly.

            Pump Organ – with these organs, you use your feet to pump air past a reed, which makes the noise. Again, the visual of this instrument fits perfectly with the music.