"It looks like Tom Waits just took a small break between creating two genuine masterpieces "SMALL CHANGE" and "BLUE VALENTINES". Giving this album 4 stars is a relief and a support for the listeners' objectiveness as one would feel uncomfortable and unfair rating all TW's albums 5 stars. "Muriel" is a beatiful ballad, the duo with Bette Midler sounds very nice but the true gem of "FOREIGN AFFAIRS" is, of course "Burma Shave" - a breathtaking song that sets the mood for the whole album."
A musical tour de force, the pinnacle of Waits!
M. Grigoryan | 10/03/1997
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Foreign Affairs wanders across nine tracks, exploring lonely souls, capricious youth, bar pick-ups, haircuts, and billboard advertisements for shaving. Through "traveling abroad" Waits refocused himself on America and that which is uniquely American. The open-road freedom of "Jack and Neal" is both a tribute to Kerouac and Cassidy and a tribute to the distinct freedom of the American road, the dreams that stretch out before one, and the promise of the West. The theme is revisited on "Burma Shave," where the promise of the horizon ends up a twisted wreck by the side of the road. The song, written as a tribute to Presley, is among Wait's finest creations. There's more here too. As a bouncer Waits often wrote down overheard conversations, and "I Never Talk to Strangers" with Bette Midler is precisely that, an everyday conversation set to piano and tenor sax. Likewise, "Muriel" is a lamentation over swizzle sticks and cigarettes for the one that got away. Waits along with Hopper, is the greatest chroniclery of American lonliness. The intimacy of his sound surpasses that of the printed word, and so draws the listener in that by the end of the CD you are sure your shirt smells like a stale barroom... END"
A seemingly forgotten masterpiece
M. Grigoryan | 10/02/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I like 'Foreign Affairs' more every time I listen to it, and I get cravings for it when I haven't heard it for a while. Tom is at the pinnacle of his beat period, and his song-writing has matured very well. It is a truly a beautiful album."
Great cd, but not his best
Nunya Bidness | Columbus, GA United States | 12/27/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I love every album Tom has made, but in my opinion this should be one of the last you buy. It's got some great songs (especially Burma Shave)but the album as a whole seems incomplete to me. More of a stepping stone from great albums to even greater albums. If you're looking for good old stuff get Small Change, Blue Valentine, Nighthawks first; then pick this one up."
A slight hint of change
Christian Jorgensen | Denmark | 06/13/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Foreign Affairs seems to be a very fitting title for Waits' 4th studio album. As I noted earlier, Tom Waits perfected his shtick on Small Change. Foreign affairs is actually the start of the metamorphosis that would continue on his next two albums until a full fledged transformation with Swordfishtrombones(1983).
The first part(side 1 on the old vinyl record) finds Waits sticking to his guns. Cinny's Waltz is an is an instrumental, but this time we also see the addition of violins.
Muriel is another Waits song about a lost love. Although nothing is wrong with the song per- se it doesn't match Waits' earlier songs touching this subject.
I Never Talk To Strangers is a singles bar duet with Bette Midler and has a clever and funny text. Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassidy is remembered on the track Jack & Neal. One of the albums highlights comes next. A Sight for Sore Eyes starts with an intro that uses the notes from Auld Lang Syne and then catches on as one of Waits' most memorable bar stool ramblings of his career.
Then there is a change in direction. The almost 9 minute long Potter's Field is a quite different song a kind of jazz noir. On Burma Shave we find a traditional scenario: girl meets mysterious stranger and takes off with him in his Ford Mustang. But the roles are blurred. You're not really sure about who is leading and who is following. A great song with a tragic end. Barber Shop is a jazz beat song. Foreign Affair is a song that sounds like Bad Liver and a Broken Heart.
A lot of critics accused Waits of repeating himself on Foreign Affairs. I think they overlooked a new approach by Waits. This is especially apparent from Potter's Field and on. Waits seems to pick up on this new approach as it is followed up on his next album Blue Valentines.
Foreign Affairs isn't as strong as his previous albums. It might be that Waits, too, was a little tired of sticking to his old act. That is why the album seems a little confused. Any transitionally period is hard and despite the flaws Foreign Affairs is still a great album"