Alice was issued simultaneously with the shadowy Blood Money, an exercise in opposites that showed Waits in full command of his artistic facilities. Bar none, this collection is the most compassionate, devastatingly tender set he has ever produced. The opening title track brings to mind waitresses Waits swooned over in '70s ballads, but no longer is he playacting a desperate, world-weary old man; he is one. Forget about picking favorites; Alice deserves to be carefully considered from start to finish. It's a triumph of one of America's most evocative songwriters.