A few years after bankrupting himself by trying to recreate the Vietnam War in Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola decided to recoup his losses by building a scale model of Las Vegas on a soundstage for his next major-league epic, One From The Heart. Having been entranced by the dialogue betwixt Tom Waits and Bette Midler on “I Never Talk To Strangers”, he hired Tom to write the score for his film, with the idea that the songs would actively reflect the script and vice versa. Bette not being available, the most obvious second choice was, of course, country sweetheart Crystal Gayle, she of the four-foot mane and bright blue eyes.
One thing to consider about the album’s context is that its genesis and completion framed the recording of Heartattack And Vine, the gritty sound of which is a direct contrast to this album’s more lush arrangements. The so-called “Opening Montage” goes from a brief piano piece into a couple of duets, one dreamy, the other jazz. “Picking Up After You” gives each of them a chance to complain, and Tom gives himself the best lines (“When did you start combing your hair with a wrench?”) but it’s a tad forced. Much better is “This One’s From The Heart”, which works well as a theme song of sorts.
Listening to this album, one can’t help but wonder what Crystal’s fan base might have taken of it. There’s no denying she has a lovely voice, especially as she wraps it around tearjerkers the likes of “Old Boyfriends” and “Take Me Home”. And how confused were they by her strange partner, grumbling his way through “Broken Bicycles”, “I Beg Your Pardon”. “Little Boy Blue” and “You Can’t Unring A Bell”? (Here’s an even wackier question: can we convince Tony Bennett to stop rerecording the same old standards and do an album of Tom Waits songs? Wouldn’t that be amazing?)
Since the film was such a resounding flop, its accompanying soundtrack LP got overlooked. The world at large wasn’t interested in a musical that hadn’t already been tested on Broadway, and it remains a transitional piece in the Waits discography. He had already all but left the saloon style behind, yet there are some clues to the future in the tango-cum-circus instrumental on side two, some of the percussion and the appearance of a bass player named Greg Cohen.
Decades later, after Coppola had finally made some of his money back, the film would be viewed a little differently (read: not a complete disaster, but still overblown) and the soundtrack hailed as exceptional, right down to adding two previously unreleased tracks to the remastered CD.
Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle The Original Soundtrack Of “One From The Heart” (1982)—2½
2004 reissue: same as 1982, plus 2 extra tracks