Extremely Cool

Chuck E. Weiss

Slow River / Rykodisc Records, 1999

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_E._Weiss

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/02/1999

Before we talk about Chuck E. Weiss, we have to talk about Tom Waits. Waits is the kind of musician whom you either love or hate; there really is not much of a middle ground. I still remember being shocked that his album Bone Machine won a Grammy - an album I couldn't stand. However, to Waits's defense, the older I get, the more I find myself able to appreciate his work.

Weiss - whose latest album my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Extremely Cool was helped out in many ways by Waits, from production to vocals to instruments - could well have been an artist in the same vein. This is his first album in 18 years - and after just one listen, I found myself asking, "What took you so long, Chuck?"

This album is a smorgasbord of styles and genres, from nearly perfect Delta blues to light rockers to the type of alternative noise that Waits has made a career out of. Thing is, with Weiss and his motley crew of guest musicians (including Waits and Rick Vito), it works... well .

What makes Extremely Cool work is that you don't know just what lies ahead of you behind the door of the next track. Is it a Cajun-based party ("Oh Marcy")? Is it slightly bizarre blues ("Deeply Sorry")? Or is it just plain bizarre ("Horseface", "Pygmy Fund", "Do You Know What I Idi Amin")? Normally, such a jumble would lead me to distraction, but Weiss's sly, cock-eyed delivery of the music conquers all.

Of course, there is a bit of an adjustment period that the listener goes through when first experiencing Extremely Cool - but I found that I was into the disc by the second track. Songs like "Just Don't Care," "Roll On Jordan" and "Sonny Could Lick All Them Cats" just happened to reaffirm my belief in this disc.

Lowpoints? I only found one - "Do You Know What I Idi Amin" seems to stretch out far too long, almost like a good joke whose punchline should have been delivered quickly. Instead of being a witty little song, Weiss and Waits almost get too caught up in the track for their own good.

If you've been following Waits's career, then Extremely Cool will not only be the logical next step for you, but will be an album you'll undoubtedly fall in love with instantly. If you're not as well schooled in Waits, then Weiss and his view of the world will take a little getting used to... but after a while, you may find that the album is appropriately titled.

Rating: B+

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Slow River / Rykodisc Records, and is used for informational purposes only.