The fourth release in Tom Waits' series of skid row travelogues, Small Change proves to be the archetypal album of his '70s work. A jazz trio comprising tenor sax player Lew Tabackin, bassist Jim Hughart, and drummer Shelly Manne, plus an occasional string section, back Waits
and his piano on songs steeped in whiskey and atmosphere in which he
alternately sings in his broken-beaned drunk's voice (now deeper and
overtly influenced by Louis Armstrong) and recites jazzy poetry. It's as if Waits
were determined to combine the Humphrey Bogart and Dooley Wilson
characters from Casablanca with a dash of On the Road's Dean Moriarty to
illuminate a dark world of bars and all-night diners. Of course, he'd
been in that world before, but in songs like "The Piano Has Been
Drinking" and "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart," Waits gives it its clearest expression. Small Change isn't his best album. Like most of the albums Waits
made in the '70s, it's uneven, probably because he was putting out one a
year and didn't have time to come up with enough first-rate material.
But it is the most obvious and characteristic of his albums for Asylum
Records. If you like it, you also will like the ones before and after;
otherwise, you're not Tom Waits' kind of listener.
In one of the most widely seen and acclaimed European movies of the 1960s, Federico Fellini featured Marcello Mastrioanni
as gossip columnist Marcello Rubini. Having left his dreary provincial
existence behind, Marcello wanders through an ultra-modern,
ultra-sophisticated, ultra-decadent Rome. He yearns to write seriously,
but his inconsequential newspaper pieces bring in more money, and he's
too lazy to argue with this setup. He attaches himself to a bored
socialite (Anouk Aimée),
whose search for thrills brings them in contact with a bisexual
prostitute. The next day, Marcello juggles a personal tragedy (the
attempted suicide of his mistress (Yvonne Furneaux)) with the demands of his profession (an interview with none-too-deep film star Anita Ekberg).
Throughout his adventures, Marcello's dreams, fantasies, and nightmares
are mirrored by the hedonism around him. With a shrug, he concludes
that, while his lifestyle is shallow and ultimately pointless, there's
nothing he can do to change it and so he might as well enjoy it. Fellini's hallucinatory, circus-like depictions of modern life first earned the adjective "Felliniesque" in this celebrated movie, which also traded on the idea of Rome as a hotbed of sex and decadence. A huge worldwide success, La Dolce Vita
won several awards, including a New York Film Critics CIrcle award for
Best Foreign Film and the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.