Big Time is an 18-track live album running nearly 68 minutes, its material drawn mostly from Tom Waits' trio of recent studio albums, Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs, and Franks Wild Years. (One track, "Falling Down," is a previously unissued studio recording. The performance of "Strange Weather" marks Waits' first recording of a song he and his wife, Kathleen Brennan, wrote for Marianne Faithfull.) It's challenging music, made somewhat more accessible in a live context. Waits' performances tended to be somewhat over the top on the studio versions of these songs, but before a live audience his theatrics seem more appropriate, and he even includes a mini-set of piano ballads. Still, it takes him until the seventh tune, "Way Down in the Hole," to bring the audience to life, and he rarely speaks, in marked contrast to the earlier live-in-the-studio album Nighthawks at the Diner. But Big Time makes a useful sampler of Waits' later work that might enable a listener to determine whether to invest in the studio recordings.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann