John Hammond Wicked Grin

It's strange enough that Tom Waits accepted a production gig, it's stranger still that he produced a tribute to himself. The smooth-voiced veteran blues-man John Hammond covers 13 Waits songs with the man himself directing traffic, and the results are mixed. Some are just different enough to work ("Clap Hands," "Big Black Mariah") while others clean up all of Waits's usual rough edges and sound a tad ridiculous ("Murder in the Red Barn"). Occasionally a song will get completely transformed, like "Shore Leave," where for the first time a melody is apparent. To Hammond's credit, he brings something new to the too-often-covered "Jockey Full of Bourbon" and he and the boss let loose on "I've Been Changed." But, overall, Holly Cole took more chances with her 1997 Waits tribute Temptation. (Virgin)