"Bride of Rain Dog"
'Rain Dogs', 1985
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“Bride of Rain Dog” is a sixty-second, sax-driven instrumental loosely based on “Rain Dogs.” It works well in the context of the album, a short breather breaking up the big “Downtown Train” / “Anywhere I Lay My Head” finale. But I don’t have much to say about it otherwise.
I’m going to use this newsletter to talk about a cool Tom Waits covers album. It includes “Bride of Rain Dog,” because it includes every song on Rain Dogs. It’s titled Solo Piano: Charlie Giordano Performs Tom Waits' Rain Dogs, and is part of a series of instrumental covers records called Solo Sounds.
Giordano’s done an all-accordion version of Songs of Leonard Cohen for them too. But he’s probably best-known these days as part of The E Street Band, having stepped into the organ chair to replace the late Danny Federici. And he was nice enough to answer a few questions about his contribution to the Tom Waits covers cannon:
Why did you pick Rain Dogs for this project?
Well, [producer] Eric Ambel had approached me about recording an album for his Solo Sounds project. The idea is that it’s one musician playing one instrument, no vocals, no overdubs, nowhere to hide! We were tossing around ideas and Rain Dogs came up. Of course I love the album and saw a show on the tour. It’s a great album and it came out at a time when a lot of music was very polished and careful. I really appreciated the roughness and emotion.
How did you approach arranging all these songs for solo piano? Especially given they're less piano-centric than Tom’s early stuff.
My approach after revisiting the original album was to arrange and play as if I was a saloon piano player. In a bar, in a corner mostly being ignored.
Eric has a small upright piano at his studio. I had played it before and it has a funky informal sound that I like. Not a big grand piano sound. Eric and I discussed the concept, and I went home to sit at my piano and play through the songs. I don’t intellectualize it too much. I just play until something sounds good to me. Keeping in mind that I wanted it to sound lonely and sparse.
Were any songs particularly hard to do?
The songs weren’t particularly hard to play, but since no one is singing I needed to make each verse sound a bit different from the previous one. Eric gave me good guidance with this and also with knowing when to move on to the next song. It’s impossible for me to judge my own playing, but I trust Eric.
Did you learn anything new about the music by giving it what I assume was a pretty deep listen for this?
When I revisited the album I was reminded of how different it was. I guess Tom was continuing to reinvent himself. I had always loved his music. The earlier piano/jazz influence was beautiful and I guess starting with Swordfishtrombones a whole new and equally masterful style.
Thanks Charlie! Check out his Rain Dogs covers album on any streaming service. Here’s his “Clap Hands”: