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Posted: January 14, 2010

Tom Waits takes his fans to the circus

Plus a classic disc from the chef of "South Park"

Mike Cote

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TOM WAITS Glitter and Doom Live (Anti)

Terry Gilliam's latest, "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus," is the last film to feature Heath Ledger, but what may have a more lasting impression is the presence of singer-songwriter Tom Waits as the devil, a fedora-wearing dude with a pencil-thin mustache and a wild sense of mischief.

Minus the mustache, that's the guy you see on the cover of Glitter and Doom Live, a double-disc album culled from Waits' recent tour. If you haven't listened to Waits in a while - say 20 years or so - he's long shucked the cocktail jive lounge act in favor of a gritty sound marked by eclectic instrumentation and his gravel-growl vocals.

Waits made the cover of Blues Revue magazine a few years back, and you can hear that blues influence on songs like the rootsy "Get Behind the Mule," the harmonica-laced "Going out West" and the somber "Dirt in the Ground." Waits' playful side comes out on "Such a Scream" and "Metropolitan Glide," and "Live Circus" (but not "playful" in the sense that you would let this character babysit your kids.)

The second disc features Waits' between songs spoken-word stories, best described as stand-up comedy from the kind of bar you might visit in "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus." You know, the one where the guy with the fedora and the pencil-thin mustache greets you at the door.

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ISAAC HAYES Shaft: Deluxe Edition (Stax)

Decades before he joined the cast of "South Park" as the voice of chef - or joined the Church of Scientology - Isaac Hayes was celebrated as the genius behind the soundtrack for "Shaft," an album that arguably has had a longer shelf life than the "blaxploitation" film that spawned it. And that wah-wah pedal guitar on the title track -- the chicka-chicka-chicka-chicka riff - is among the most imitated in rock history.

This new edition of the 1971 classic - on which Hayes demonstrated his talent for blending rock, funk, pop elements and majestic orchestration -- doesn't add much, just great sound, extensive liner notes and a 2009 mix of the hit "Theme from Shaft."

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Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com.

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