Mule Variations

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Mule Variations
Studio album by Tom Waits
Released April 16, 1999 (1999-04-16)
Recorded 1998 at Prairie Sun Recording Studios in Cotati, California
Genre Rock, experimental
Length 70:33
Label ANTI-
Producer Kathleen Brennan, Tom Waits
Tom Waits chronology
The Black Rider
(1993)
Mule Variations
(1999)
Blood Money
(2002)
Singles from Mule Variations
  1. "Hold On"
    Released: March 1999 (1999-03)

Mule Variations is the twelfth studio album by American musician Tom Waits, released on April 16, 1999 on the ANTI- label. It was Waits's first studio album since The Black Rider (1993). It won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album and was nominated for Best Male Rock Performance for the track "Hold On". It also sold more than 500,000 copies world wide.

The album was backed by an extensive tour in Europe and North America during the summer and autumn of 1999, which was Waits's first proper tour since 1987. Other promotional stops included a solo performance on VH1 Storytellers.

In 2003, the album was ranked number 416 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[1]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[2]
Robert Christgau A-[3]
Entertainment Weekly B+[4]
Hot Press Positive[5]
Pitchfork Media 9.5/10[6]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[7]
"Rolling Stone" 4.5/5 stars[8]

Upon its release, Mule Variations received positive critical acclaim. Allmusic reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine stated that "the album uses the ragged cacophony of Bone Machine as a starting point, and proceeds to bring in the songwriterly aspects of Rain Dogs, along with its affection for backstreet and backwoods blues, plus a hint of the beatnik qualities of Swordfish. So Mule Variations delivers what fans want, in terms of both songs and sonics" and awarded the album four out of five stars.[2] Former Village Voice editor Robert Christgau gave the album an A– rating and praised Waits and Brennan's songwriting, saying "together they humanize the percussion-battered Bone Machine sound, reconstituting his '80s alienation effects into a Delta harshness with more give to it."[3] David Browne of Entertainment Weekly said that Mule Variations "restores the wizened humanity — and a more traditional sense of songcraft — to [Waits'] music," gave the album a B+ rating and concluded that Waits was "the last of the classic American tunesmiths."[4] Hot Press reviewer Peter Murphy described the album as "an emotionally forthright record" and called it "a record of at least two minds: scuffed rooming-house madrigals [...] contrasted with big, fat, bleeding heart ballads."[5] Zach Hooker of Pitchfork Media awarded the album a 9.5 out of 10 rating, described it as "a great album" and further described that "sonically, it picks up where Bone Machine left off, but drops some of that album's artifice: the clattering, trebly out-back-of-the-shed sound is still here and the inexplicable presence of Primus persists."[6] Rolling Stone said that the album "contains the most blues of any album [Tom Waits has] made" but added "the problem is that it's more of the same", describing it as "the latest installment of discourse," awarding the album three out of five stars.[7]

Mule Variations was a moderate commercial success. The album charted in fourteen countries worldwide upon its release, including debuting at number 30 on the United States Billboard 200[9] and number 1 on Norway's album chart.[10] The album was certified Gold in Canada in July 2001 after selling over 50,000 copies[11] and as of April 2009 had sold more than 500,000 copies worldwide.[12] Mule Variations won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album at the 42nd Grammy Awards[13] and was nominated for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.[14]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan unless otherwise noted. 

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Big in Japan"     4:05
2. "Lowside of the Road"     2:59
3. "Hold On"     5:33
4. "Get Behind the Mule"     6:52
5. "House Where Nobody Lives"   Waits 4:14
6. "Cold Water"     5:23
7. "Pony"   Waits 4:32
8. "What's He Building?"   Waits 3:20
9. "Black Market Baby"     5:02
10. "Eyeball Kid"     4:25
11. "Picture in a Frame"     3:39
12. "Chocolate Jesus"     3:55
13. "Georgia Lee"     4:24
14. "Filipino Box Spring Hog"   Waits 3:09
15. "Take It with Me"     4:24
16. "Come on Up to the House"     4:36
Total length:
70:33
Australian, New Zealand and Japanese[15] bonus tracks
No. Title Writer(s) Length
17. "Buzz Fledderjohn"   Waits 4:14
18. "Big Face Money"   Waits, Casey Waits 0:38
Total length:
75:25

Personnel[edit]

Chart positions[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "416 Mule Variation". The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Rolling Stone. 1 November 2003. Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  2. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. Mule Variations – Tom Waits : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards at AllMusic
  3. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "Robert Christga: CG: Tom Waits". robertchristgau.com. 
  4. ^ a b Browne, David (April 30, 1999). "Mule Variations Review | Music Reviews and News | EW.com". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Murphy, Peter. "Mule Variations". Hot Press. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Hooker, Zack (April 27, 1999). "Tom Waits: Mule Variations | Album Reviews | Pitchfork". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Ratliff, Ben (May 13, 1999). "Mule Variations | Album Reviews | Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Tom Waits". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 2, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c "Mule Variations – Tom Waits | Billboard.com". Billboard. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  10. ^ a b "norwegiancharts.com – Tom Waits – Mule Variations". norwegiancharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Gold and Platinum Search". Music Canada. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  12. ^ Zupko, Sarah (April 22, 2009). "Tom Waits – "Mule Variations" Video Collection (video) < PopMatters". PopMatters. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  13. ^ "Past Winners Search | GRAMMY.com". Grammys. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  14. ^ "42nd Annual Grammy Awards List of nominations – Page 2 – CNN". CNN. January 4, 2000. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  15. ^ Mule Variations [Japan Bonus Tracks] – Tom Waits : Release Information, Reviews and Credits at AllMusic. Retrieved June 22, 2012.
  16. ^ "australian-charts.com – Tom Waits – Mule Variations". australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Tom Waits – Mule Variations – austriancharts.at". austriancharts.at. Hung Medien. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  18. ^ "ultratop.be – Tom Waits – Mule Variations". Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  19. ^ "dutchcharts.nl – Tom Waits – Mule Variations". dutchcharts.nl. Hung Medien. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  20. ^ "finnishcharts.com – Tom Waits – Mule Variations". finnishcharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  21. ^ "lescharts.com – Tom Waits – Mule Variations". lescharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  22. ^ "charts.de". Media Control Charts. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  23. ^ "charts.org.nz – Tom Waits – Mule Variations". charts.org.nz. Hung Medien. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  24. ^ "swedishcharts.com – Tom Waits – Mule Variations". swedishcharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  25. ^ "Tom Waits – Mule Variations – hitparade.ch". Hitparade. Hung Medien. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  26. ^ "TOM WAITS | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. The Official Charts Company. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  27. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Tom Waits – Mule Variations". Music Canada. 

External links[edit]