Album Review :
Richard Swift - The Collection Part 2: Walking Without Effort
Artist: Richard Swift
Album: The Collection Vol. 2: Walking Without Effort
Label: Secretly Canadian
In keeping with the tradition of comparing Mr. Swift to older, gravely-voiced innovators, I shall continue with this review…
Imagine Tom Waits in the mid to late 80s. In the 70s he made his living on simple barroom songs written (and mainly played) on the piano. Gorgeous songs that always sounded a little odd coming from someone with such a growling voice. By 1983, he’d had enough, and recorded Swordfishtrombones, an off-the-wall collection of songs that were more than a little uncharacteristic of his previous albums. From there, he completed his “trilogy” by releasing Rain Dogs in ’85, and rounded it out with Frank’s Wild Years (which was also a stage production) in ’87. Each one of these albums could be categorized with simply one word: groundbreaking. They could also be described by the following words: odd, sprawling albums recorded by a deranged madman. I suppose both could be called correct.
Where does an artist go from there? It was the late 80s, and music was slowly dying. Aside from a couple great bands, most of the decade was littered with predictable new-wave music, which was slowly paving the way for terrible early 90s hip-hop (Vanilla Ice, anyone?) and cookie-cutter rock. Who wanted that? Certainly not Tom Waits…always one step ahead of everyone else, constantly reinventing himself. A new decade was beginning, and his loyal band of followers were asking each other, “What comes next?” He really could’ve gone in any direction, but there are two that are more obvious than all the others.
1.) He could’ve taken a couple years off, then reappeared in ’92 with Bone Machine, arguably his strangest (and darkest) album to date, an album that would pave the way for more albums along that line (The Black Rider, Mule Variations, Blood Money, etc.), and establish himself as one of the most inventive and expressive writers of his time, even if he wasn’t always 100% accessible to everyone, or…
2.) He could’ve gone the pop route. Don’t misunderstand me…I’m not talking about your standard radio pop stuff…I’m talking about creative pop music. Strings, processed beats, all different kinds of instrumentation…you know…what pop music was always supposed to be about ever since The Beatles came and showed everyone what could be done…nay, what should be expected of the pop musician.
Of course, ol’ Tom Waits chose the first option, and we were left to wonder what could’ve been. What if he had started to write pop music? Well, we don’t really have to wonder anymore…just listen to this Richard Swift album (bet you were wondering when he was entering into this review) and you’ll instantly know. Sure, his voice isn’t as gruff as Tom’s, he has all the creativity that Tom possesses.
I expect no less from Mr. Swift anymore…I expect greatness of him, and he exceeds my expectations every time. This is as imaginative a pop album as you’re likely to hear in quite some time. If you’re into pop/rock/folk/music at all, then you’re likely to love this album.
RIYL: Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, more recent Starflyer 59, etc.
Favorite tracks: Losing Sleep, Not Wasting Time
Find out more about Richard Swift (and listen to some songs) at:
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