Personnel includes: Tom Waits (vocals, violin, piano, organ, chamberlain, Mellotron, vibraphone, glockenspiel, cymbals); Larry Taylor (acoustic & electric guitars, bass, percussion); Joe Gore (electric guitar); Myles Boisen (banjo); Bebe Risenfors (violin, viola, fiddle, clarinet, bass clarinet, marimba, bass); Dawn Harms, Carla Kihlstedt (violin); Matt Brubeck (cello); Collin Stetson (baritone saxophone); Ara Anderson (trumpet); Gino Robair (marimba, drums, percussion); Eric Perney, Matthew Sperry (bass); Andrew Borger (drums, percussion); Stewart Copeland (drums).
Recorded at In The Pocket Studios, Forestville, California.
Never one to be outdone, Tom Waits released ALICE and BLOOD MONEY simultaneously, both featuring music written for plays directed by Robert Wilson. Loosely based on THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, ALICE is much more low-key and ballad-heavy than its companion release, but just as incisive and affecting. The title track is a smoky, jazz-tinged torch song that conjures pleasant memories of Waits's evocative work for Francis Ford Coppola's film ONE FROM THE HEART. "Everything You Can Think" is an absurdist portrait a la the seminal RAIN DOGS.
Waits opens the door to the freak show on "Poor Edward," a disturbing tune about a man with a female face on the other side of his head, and the more light-hearted "Table Top Joe," a swinging, jazzy tale of a character with no bottom half but plenty of rhythm. Despite the effective journeys into the bizzaro universe, perhaps the most stirring moments on ALICE are the wounded romantic ballads "Fish and Bird" and "I'm Still Here," where Waits's knack for a classic melody mates perfectly with a lyrical combination of wistfulness and regret.
What the critics say...
Rolling Stone (5/23/02, p.78) - 4 out of 5 stars - "...[Waits'] throatis...pure theater, a wapon of pictorial emphasis and raw honesty....ALICE is...macabre in its details of destructive lust. But there are flickers of hope, too..."
Spin (6/02, p.109) - 7 out of 10 - "...Worth its weight almost solely for 'I'm Still Here', one of those unbearably tender moments that Waits seems to pull out of his greasy head like a tick..."
Q (May 2002, p.114) - 4 out of 5 stars - "...ALICE is described by Waits as an album of 'opiate songs'...oddly sideways lyrics and [an] often meditative vibe make it a strangely gorgeous and graceful work..."
Alternative Press (7/02, p.96) - 9 out of 10 - "...[ALICE] has gained a reputation as Waits' "lost masterpiece." That claim proves well deserved..."
Magnet (6-7/02, p.111) - "...Hovering around slower tempos...the weary pump organ and piano limp along while Waits' voice takes on the obsessive growl of a neurotic, jilted loser..."
CMJ (5/20/02, p.6) - "...Brooding and jazzy..."
Mojo (Publisher) (5/02, p.94) - "...Unhealthy obsession has rarely been this beautiful....skewed and drowsy, with wonky percussion and soft, smudged, narcotic strings...vaporous, layered, beautifully evocative..."
NME (Magazine) (5/18/02, p.35) - 8 out of 10 - "...A shimmering, mournful gem..."