Beyond the nostalgia there's also a lot of fun. Who else is going to tell you about...
Nigel Smith 2002-11-20
The Chuck E Weiss legend overshadows his music. Hardly surprising considering Old Souls & Wolf Tickets is only his third album in three decades. Considered royalty in Hollywood's less salubrious quarters, Weiss made his mark in LA during a long-term residency at the infamous Tropicana Motel along with Tom Waits and Rickie Lee Jones. Waits wrote a song about Weiss's car. Jones went one better and immortalised him in "Chuck E's in Love". Opening the Viper Room with Johnny Depp in 1993 transformed the club Weiss had played in for years into the Hollywood hotspot du jour, and in all that time he managed to stay well clear of a studio. Chuck E's second album materialised 18 years after the first. A collaboration with Waits, the Zydeco-flavoured Extremely Cool (1999) had few problems living up to its name.
Weiss wanted the follow-up to be "more melodic". There may less growling this time round, but Old Souls & Wolf Tickets still retains the previous record's good-time stew of jazz, blues and rock and roll. Backed by his long-time aiders and abettors the G-d Damn Liars, the milieu is somewhere between a Los Angeles late-night lounge and a New Orleans block party, with memories of old friends and youthful miss-adventure surfacing on many tracks. "I want to go back to when things were so simple" sings Weiss in a high-pitched hillbilly squeal on "Piggly Wiggly". Echoes of the past reverberate most on "Down the Road Apiece". Willie Dixon recorded this nugget of Dixie-fried boogie-woogie in 1970 with "little" Chuck E Weiss providing backing vocals. It says a lot about big Chuck E's sensibilities that the rediscovered cut fits perfectly on this record.
Beyond the nostalgia there's also a lot of fun. Who else is going to tell you about the 60-year-old Al Jolson's honeymoon or enthuse so passionately about his car? Chuck E may not be venturing far beyond Los Angeles anytime soon, but it would be a shame if he stays shy of a recording studio for long.