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Chuck E. Weiss | Extremely Cool (Ryko)
Weiss belongs to the genus 'maturus musicianum' and, in accordance with the traditions of his kind, his extra-studio exploits are far more notable and widely known than his recordings (which, until now, comprised a sole offering in 1981). His infamy stems from his connections with LA's trendy 'underground' (immortalised in song by Rickie Lee Jones' Chuck E's in Love) and long-standing friendship with Tom Waits. Waits has both produced and co-written Extremely Cool and his signature is clearly stamped on the finished sound. But, although the album bears the traces of Wait's inventive arrangements and percussive instincts, Weiss is bluesy where Waits is country, rock'n'roll where Waits is swagger'n'stroll and downright cheesy where Waits is heartfelt. Like film noir, Weiss draws you into a world where the women are sexy, the men sharply dressed and it's perpetually 1:32am. There are no windows in this smoky bar; bourbon is the drink of choice and all that matters are the intoxicating rhythms and the stories being told. For, as each track unfurls, Weiss spins tales of shady characters, back room dealings and fallen angels. Such murky ambience may be out of place in the IKEA-furnished living room of your suburban semi-detached but, with the lights turned low enough and a brushing up of your southern drawl, you may just pull it off.
Naoise Mac Sweeney
CWAS #4 - Winter 1998/9 - The Lost Issue