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  • Album Reviews |

    Tom Waits

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    Closing Time ( 1973 )
    Ol' 55 / I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You / Virginia Avenue / Old Shoes & Picture Postcards / Midnight Lullaby / Martha / Rosie / Lonely / Ice Cream Man / Little Trip To Heaven / Grapefruit Moon / Closing Time

    Early Tom Waits demos were recorded solo with Tom accompanying himself on guitar. He then got his hands on a Piano and set about learning songs. Signed to Asylum/Elektra and pushed into the folky set and a swarm of Singer/Songwriters that were around in the early seventies, it was always possible he'd just be lost in the crowd.... On the otherhand, his bosses at Elektra must have been delighted when 'Ol' 55' was picked up on by The Eagles. His love of Jazz and the writings of beatniks such as Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs may not be much in evidence here on 'Closing Time', but time spent sat in his garage playing Piano, influenced by the discipline of The Brill Building tunesmiths... is very much in evidence. Randy Newman and Joni Mitchell are influences, although neither obviously so, but this was the background of the scene into which 'Closing Time' was sent.

    Who cares? Who cares that Tom was apparently fighting against his producer the whole time about the direction the album should take? These are fine songs! 'Martha' is my pick of the bunch, a delicate, utterly beautiful Piano pattern, recorded with echo and sounding a hundred years... married to very romantic vocals and lyrics. Mentions of "Poetry and prose and Martha...." and it just makes me swoon. It really does! Tom sounds sweet, not something he'd always sound like in the years to come, but still. Gorgeous song, truly a wonderful song. Opening the album is 'Ol' 55' and lookee here! It's another beautiful song, with nice Piano, vocals 'that try' and manage to sound sweet, so the effort was worth it. Tom Waits doesn't have a conventionally beautiful singing voice, although his voice all through this album is far less 'bark and tree' like than his later voice. The folky guitar led 'I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You' follows, a pleasant romantic song, very good. Smoky Jazz bars arrive in my mind once 'Midnight Lullaby' appears, 'Rosie' is a good choice of song to follow 'Martha', a similar kind of song only with a lighter atmosphere surrounding it. Glorious lyrics, actually - perfect poetry, and a song that ties in vaguely with the country/folk crowd. Very lonesome and appealing is the simple Piano led 'Lonely', full of echo. Tom playing right in your basement. That kind of sound.... "Lonely eyes, lonely face...." - this makes me weep, and Piano pedals creek....

    'Ice Cream Man' is a funny little story, but not everything works. A couple of 'average' and forgettable songs. Ah, let's talk about the Jazz swing of 'Ice Cream Man' instead. A glance into the immediate future of Tom Waits, and a fine thing with nifty bass guitar and glorious Jazz feels. One last highlight remains, the truly lovely Piano led, smoking and drinking whiskey whilst lonesome late at night feel of 'Grapefruit Moon'. 'Closing Time' isn't quite a thrilling record from start to finish, but it has a very natural sound and feel, even if this sound and feel wasn't actually intended, and was a compromised result of battles between Tom and his producer. The songs matter, and the sound is beautiful.

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    Richard Sherwin poa01rjs@sheff.ac.uk
    Couldnt agree more. Closing time is a vastly underrated album which should appear in more 'best album' lists. Perfect 3am music.

    Jeff Bratz effbratz@hotmail.com
    "Old Shoes..." says it all. Tom was "singin' this song, 'cause it's time it was sung," and maybe it should be dedicated to his producer, although I can't imagine they shared much intimacy, figuratively or artistically.

    Andrew Mich andrewkylie@hotmail.com
    Ol 55 is just the perfect "merrily drunk in my kitchen at 2.00am singalong". At which point my ignorant squash buddies ask "What the *#@k is this shit ?? I don't care I love Toms slower work just as much as the latter stuff. I can't believe you haven't reviewed "Nighthawks @ the Diner". Truly funny stuff.

    gazza gary.hess44@hotmail.com
    Dont care what anyone says - 1st 2 waits albums are my favourite . Beautiful songs , amazingly written for someone so young . Personally i find his later work patchy in the extreme - especially the "you must take me serious because of my oh so original arrangements" A lot of real gone for example is unlistenable. these 2 records are timeless in their appeal and recommended sunday morning listening

    Lee Japan
    Thought you just failed to mention one vital point. This is a DEBUT! This album is my personal favourite debut album. Can't even think of another contender that comes close to this. It was an indication of something extraordinary arriving on the scene, but I suspect few people realized it at the time.

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    The Heart Of Saturday Night 8 ( 1974 )
    New Coat Of Paint / San Diego Serenade / Semi Suite / Shiver Me Timbers / Diamonds On My Windshield / The Heart Of Saturday Night / Fumblin With The Blues / Please Call Me, Baby / Depot Depot / Drunk On The Moon / The Ghosts Of Saturday Night

    'Semi Suite' is a pure Jazz glory, glorious vocals and lyrics smoky and seedy and mentioning steam. A change of producer to a guy named 'bones', a guy who knew Jazz and could bring out that side of Tom. Asylum decided to go with it, after watching 'Closing Time' fail to sell as many copies as they'd have liked, and after listening to Tom himself complain about his previous producer. But then, I love 'Closing Time'. I actually like this a slight bit less.... because the songs themselves aren't quite as strong. Still pretty damn fine though. The aforementioned 'Semi Suite' is more atmosphere than song, but 'New Coat Of Paint' is good, 'Shiver Me Timbers' is very in the style of 'Closing Time', actually - but glorious and shiveringly romantic with it. A rainy day with the wind blowing, the sun shining, birds singing whilst the sky turns dark and a man with a raincoat holds an umbrella under his arm with his hair soaking under the rain.... That kind of a song. Strings! New producer 'Bones Howe' was fond of his string orchestrations, placing old bark and tree within a very nice expensive frame. It worked sometimes, other times less well, but it was interesting. A thumpingly pure Jazz 'cool cat' bass line introduces 'Diamonds On My Windshield' and the story is a thrill to hear as Tom does his Jazz beatnik thing. The title song is a sweet light guitar led song, 'Fumblin With The Blues' a weird Jazz Blues hybrid.

    The gorgeous simple tone of early Tom Waits Piano sails through added to string orchestration to beautifully introduce the wonderful sounding 'Please Don't Call Me Baby'. Tom sounds romantic, full of love and full of something else, too. Not quite straight, not quite your man to introduce to your mother, but the "walking in the rain" line is just right. No dumpsters or clanging metal yet in the world of Tom Waits... but lots of smoke all over this particular album. The smoke would reappear too, just you watch what happens next!

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    Jeff Bratz effbratz@hotmail.com
    This is Tom's apogee for straight story telling. Nowhere else is his material as accessible, understated and beautiful. He's still trying to please, as his cast of characters inhabit recognizable situations and attitudes, with a hard eye to reality and a dose of sentimentality. I think when an artist makes a classic, the impulse is thereafter to take the damn thing apart.

    Mikey.P bunglewafc@hotmail.com
    This is the first Tom Waits album I ever picked up. I hate to admit but it was due to Ed Harcourt who I loved a few years back cited him as a major influence. So off I popped to Music Zone to flick through all his albums. What first hit me about this particular one is the amazing front cover. The sleaze, the cool, it just epitomizes the whole album. So upon purchasing I rushed out the shop n slapped this lil demon into my walkman. Slowly walking around sunny Wigan I stopped in my tracks. I was just blown away by the lyrics, the gentle jazz, and 'Fumblin with the blues' was and still is my the stand out track for me. Any song thats got such illiteration as 'Pool shooting shimmy schyster' cant be bad. And other lines that made me chuckle are lil gems such as..... 'Falling in love is such a breeze, its standing up thats so hard for me'. Pure genius. I have since grabbed all his albums now, and although I love rain dogs and small change with high affection, this is the album I a! lways run back to. Pure brilliance, and a recomendation to anyone!!!!!

    Gazza garyhess44@hotmail.com
    I very nearly missed out on waits completely adrian, I heard swordfishtombones 1st and i didnt like it. i still think the island records period is patchy but a friend got me a tape copy with this and closing time on the other side . I left it alone for ages. Then one night After a particularly disastrous romantic encounter i got home in a awful mood, it felt like my world was falling apart. i knew i wouldnt be able to sleep so i stuck on the tape and reached for the malt whiskey . Suddenly it all began to make sense . This was a similar bachelor life to mine , hustling to get by - getting into all sorts of scrapes . Tom understands this life because hes lived it too. He understands what its like to leave someone you love behind for no reason other than you HAVE to go somewhere else, to know his romantic limitations and the damage this can cause. He catalogues this vividly with sensitivity and passion. Tom just knew himself so well inside, incredibly so for someone s! o young. I kept drinking and listening and by early next morning i was converted- a fan forever. In fact this stuff was so powerful i very nearly didnt listen to any more waits , so strongly did it resonate with me. Anyway i never saw the girl again but i went straight to the cd shop(hungover) and bought closing time and this record and had a friend for life. If you cant feel songs like "lonely" " heart of saturday night" and "martha" then you youll never get waits anyway never mind how extreme and different he sounds on other records. Ive followed his career keenly since , but these records are the coin in the jukebox,the ice cold beer, the atmosphere you can swim in ,the long slow kiss goodbye and the rainswept streets of the long walk home...

    Lee Japan
    As a man who has appreciated pretty much everything Tom Waits has done, I consider this album to be amongst his best. As the reviewer has acknowledged, this is perhaps Waits' most accessible album. This was the one that got my wife interested in him. (She certainly wasn't into Rain Dogs at first). And for those of us here who do not consider ourselves to be music snobs, the art of writing heart wrenching chord progressions and melodies that touch millions of people around the world is nothing to be sniffed at. It may not be as original as some of his later work, but Closing Time and The Heart of Saturday Night contain some excellent pop song writing. A dying art

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    Small Change 9 ( 1976 )
    Tom Traubert's Blues / Step Right Up / Jitterbug Boy / I Wish I Was In New Orleans / The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me) / Invitation To The Blues / Pasties And A G-String / Bad Liver And A Broken Heart / The One That Got Away / Small Change / I Can't Wait To Get Off Work

    Ah, something probably happened inbetween, but let's talk about this! The Beatnik Jazz thing of 'Nighthawks At The Diner' was a weird thing, but 'Small Change' was truly the real thing. The front cover artwork shows Tom with his leg on a chair, one hand on his head with the other on his knee. In the background, a woman with her breasts showing - some kind of stripper I presume - rests against a makeup counter.... So of course, an old Australian folk song gets a makeover to open the record. Tom suddenly sounds like he's trebled the amount of cigarettes he was smoking at the time, his voice far more cracked than before. Add in strings, add in a vocal that sounds like a mere struggle to live and simultaneously sounds like one of the greatest human triumphs against all odds, is JUST SOMETHING! And then up comes a-swinging 'Step Right Up, perfectly named, perfectly out there - a bass groove repeating and repeating as Tom scats and mumbles but lines come out at you. How about perfume? "Somemetbutht a little, Three for a dollar...." - and so it goes on, gloriously from beginning to end, for nearly six minutes. Two songs, twelve minutes, every single one of them fabulous. Hotcha! Ah, nothing is perfect in this world. 'Jitterbug Boy' should have been another Jazz thing, given its title, but instead its a Piano ballad, and not the best he'd done. 'I Wish I Was In New Orleans' is a string drenched ballad, but the tree and bark voice works well. Ah, a Saloon in the lyric. And, Ah! Two truly glorious songs, so good I can hardly believe they exist..... this album....

    'The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)' is just so damn good. 'The carpet needs a haircut' sings Tom, and the whole thing, with the title, with the hazed drunken feel, perfectly done. Mentions of hearing aids and someone's mother. Of course, the Piano has been drinking. It sounds like it too. In a similar and just as great vein is the fabulous 'Bad Liver And A Broken Heart' which combines Tom's getting ever more gruff voice with a drunken mans lament. "I drunk me a river since you tore me apart / I don't have a drinking problem..... We were quite a pair" - you see, this is romantic too! And the Piano is beautiful..... "She was my better half" - you can see the life's struggle. Glorious... beautiful.. Nobody else can do this but Tom. 'Pasties And A G-String' is just so fabulously titled, and very percussive and scatty musically. 'The One That Got Away' is a nice swinging Jazz thing, the title song a quiet 'the man in a suit has just demanded $3,000 from you by next Wednesday' kind of thing in feel. And, 'I Can't Wait To Get Off Work', a song I have to agree with in title, and the music is Piano led and romantic. The leaves fall down, everything turns brown and yellow and the smoke rises from a Piano player in a bar darkened with soot. Tom Waits sings to someone, to everyone who has ever got drunk, smoked, or just not quite enjoyed themselves so happily that they never complain.

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    Abraham Newman abzafox@yahoo.com
    I agree with every word, no one could pull off an album like this except the great tom waits. This is the first tom waits album I truly fell in love with. This is the album I tell everyone to buy,every song sounds like hes in a beautiful drunken stupor,but it totally makes the album.

    Sean Higgins
    The stripper on the album is a Vegas showgirl named Casgeorge Peterson. She would later become famous as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Seriously.

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    Blue Valentines 7 ( 1978 )
    Somewhere / Red Shoes By The Drugstore / Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis / Romeo Is Bleeding / $29.00 / Wring Side Of The Road / Whistlin Past The Graveyard / Kentucky Avenue / A Sweet Little Bullet From A Pretty Blue Gun / Blue Valentines

    Opening with a string drenched 'Somewhere' from 'West Side Story' and then proceeding to cover familiar Waits territory. That pretty much sums up 'Blue Valentines', an album that seems to me suspiciously like Waits working to formula. Well, on 'Somewhere' he sings, I mean really sings, and that's nice, but this is just a little interlude for the album. 'Red Shoes By The Drugstore' is all rhythm and Tom storytelling, a vibe that lasts for just three minutes, but a fine enjoyable vibe all the same. "Santa Claus is drunk!" screams Tom, and it's good stuff. The deliciously titled 'Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis' is a Waits Piano ballad and given the opening two songs - a welcome thing - three different kinds of song to open, and that works to give the album a cohesive, coherent feel, even if none of these three particular songs would especially rank amongst his finest moments. One song song that would, could and SHOULD rank amongst his finest moments is the fabulous Jazz swing and late night seedy feel of 'Romeo Is Bleeding'. Following the magnificent cracked and bruised yet weary, tender and beautiful vocals from 'Small Change' - 'Blue Valentines' has proved disappointing by comparison. 'Romeo Is Bleeding' corrects matters somewhat, great vocals and the bass groove really is an enticing wonderful thing. The slow blues grind of 'Twenty-Nine Dollars' isn't so enticing. The little Piano rolls are nice and everything, but we'd heard and would hear better material than this from the pen of Mr Tom Waits.

    'Wrong Side Of The Road' is a fairly typical 'Blue Valentines' song. No Piano, little bits of guitar, trumpet - a slow, moody and atmospheric Jazz feel.... just not a terribly interesting feel, although impeccably played and sang. The lyrics are fascinating throughout as Tom does his thing, prowling around the streets late at night... but, the mid-tempo nature of much of everything here begins to grate and annoy. So, thank god for swinging up-tempo 'alive' sounding 'Whistlin Past The Graveyard'. Thank the lord for the funny little story in song that is 'A Little Bullet From A Pretty Blue Gun', Tom bites, ah! 'Kentucky Avenue' is a welcome Piano ballad on an album very short on Piano, the closing title song benefits from beautifully understated musical backing, very effective solitary guitar, and that's very nearly it. 'Blue Valentines' isn't his strongest work, it isn't an essential Tom Waits work unless you want everything. But, to be fair, this is still fine performance and writing.

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    Oscar miscreanty@yahoo.com
    Actually, i kinda love this album. Its vintage Waits through and through. Every song is a different little story - a moment captured by nothing more than a vocal line based around a couple of chords, and a band that provides a light, but essential backing. The feel of each song is what really matters, mixed with a line or two of lyrics (usually the chorus - while the majority of the vere lyrics are relatively inconsequential). The album meanders through the sweetness of "Somewhere" to the percussive glory of "Red Shoes", through the bluesy swagger of "Wrong side of the road", and ends on the warm hearted of "Blue Valentines" - and all the way it builds up this strength of consistency. Overall, this is Tom's album that most understands what it wants to be, and it has some of his most tender and subtle songs to boot - 9/10.

    Richard uglyrich@hotmail.com
    Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis is becoming one of my favourate Tom Waits tracks. More of a short story with a twist than a song. I cant think of anyone else who could have come out with it.

    Khorsani khorsani@hotmail.com
    A great recomendation for your first Tom Waits purchase. There are moments of sheer brilliance on this album. Two tracks that stand out: Xmas card from a hooker....and Red Shoes, they are my absolute favorites.

    Richard Duck richard.duck@rogers.com
    Tom Waits is one of the quintessential songwriters of our time and Kentucky Avenue is, in my opinion, one of the saddest and most incredible songs I have ever heard. Apart from being one of my favourite TW songs, it's one of my fav songs period. It speaks to my soul, and like Victoria William's Century Plant, it gets played when I need to get in touch with myself on a deeper level. Its a song about childhood, dreams, freedom and the human spirit. Tom can weave a tail like no other songwriter and the tracks on Blue Valentine may not all be his strongest but Kentucky Avenue is a classic that has not recieved the acclaim it deserves

    Michel michelmichielsen12@hotmail.com
    According to me 'the' Tom Waits Album. The great ballad Christmas card, the bluesy valentines. The great rythm of whistling past the graveyard en the mysterious night feel of Sweet little bullets. No, really. According to me this album is somehow all that mister Waits is. Simple backing instruments, great vocals, deep lyrics. My fav!

    Brennan brennan.molina@gmail.com
    While never regarded as one of the better Waits albums, this is certainly one of my favorites. While the album as a whole can be a crap shoot, the songs that are good are some of the best in the catelogue. While the obvious "hooker" and "graveyard" need no more defense, small time gems like "pretty blue gun" and the title track "blue valentine" are arguably the best merge of poetic lyrics and sonic emotion. A few of the songs, like $29.00 take sometime to get into, and I'm no fan of the West Side story covers, but these are small bumps, if any at all, in a brilliant yet understated and underrated album. If you own Raindogs, and Mule Variations, this ought to be the next purchase you make. On the fringe of 70's Tom and his foray (sp?) into the darker side. (it come in 1978 I believe) If you're looking to break into the other side of Tom Waits, no matter which side you're on, all roads ought to take you through Blue Valentine. I promise you, raind! ogs. This ain't no marysville; its no wide spot in the road.

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    Heartattack And Vine 6 ( 1980 )
    Heartattack And Vine / In Shades / Saving All My Love For You / Downtown / Jersey Girl / Til The Money Runs Out / On The Nickel / Mr Siegal / Ruby's Arms

    The production is clean and sparse and the arrangements simple. Tom's songs themselves seem to be yearning to move on in different directions, only he's not sure what that direction should be. Producer Bones Howe surrounds a song or two in a string arrangement, and that's pretty much his input over and done with. A jazzy thing or two, a few guitar led songs, a few pieces of interesting percussion going on somewhere, but very little here is actually striking. After creating a series of albums that tried to work as mood pieces, sucked you in and sent you someplace, 'Heartattack And Vine' appears to have no cohesive mood or atmosphere at all. The title song does feature a new thing, a semi-new thing, one of a few 'semi' new things this album does display. The guitar sound is different, a gritty blues guitar riff. Tom sounds rougher than even he usually does, and the performance and song works. The trumpet probably wasn't necessary, but there you go. A blues guitar goes all through 'In Shades' and not much else at all happens in the song. Is the feel or mood of 'Heartattack And Vine' a blues feel and mood? Well, 'Saving All My Love For You' goes back to a Tom Waits Piano ballad, with added strings. His voice particularly gruff however... back to the expensive frame for producer Bones Howe, whom apparently Tom was fighting against, fighting against this established way of making records they'd developed for themselves. The blues guitar returns for 'Downtown', but inbetween these blues songs was the 'Saving All My Love For You', and whilst it is clear some kind of mood has been attempted for this album, it doesn't wash or work particularly well.

    'Jersey Girl' is the best song here by some distance, actually. Inching towards a different sound, a sweet guitar figure works with understated bass and brushed drums - and Tom sings a nice love song. A pretty song this, and something markedly different to his material of the immediate past. The strings here work subtly, and the chorus is diamond and gold. Sadly, not much else here is worth keeping. It's all fine to try to turn Tom into a blues figure, but maybe his other persona worked better, and suited his songs better? Maybe his other persona was more distinctive? Just a series of thoughts. The rhythm of 'Til The Money Runs Out' is a little different for him, no trace of Jazz here - he was moving away from his past, or at least trying to. 'Mr Siegal' comes across as an inferior version of the title song, the closing 'Ruby's Arms' is one of those Tom Waits Piano and Strings ballads. As it turned out, it marked the end of an era for him in nostalgic fashion.

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    Tomeu Gomila waitingforwaits@yahoo.es
    In 1994 I initially felt a bit indifferent to Heartattack and Vine (being only 19 years old, I bought it thanks to Bruce Springsteen and his Jersey Girl cover).But somehow the more I listened to it the more I enjoyed it...and ended up buying all his albums, and catching him live in several occasions (Berlin, Paris, London), which is an astonishing sensation... Since 2001 I promote a music festival called Waiting for Waits (every July, in Mallorca-Spain), where all artists end up their shows with one cover of a Tom Waits song (Peter Case, Howe Gelb, Lisa Germano, Willard Grant Conspiracy, Steve Wynn, Kelly Joe Phelps,Martha Wainwright, Josh Rouse, Neal Casal,etc have enjoyed it so far). If one day Mr Waits brings his band and his wife and cowriter -Kathleen Brenan- to Mallorca, we will be happy to romantically retire this project...

    Mike janke62@yahoo.com
    I really like your reviews, Adrian, and you've introduced me to some Tom Waits music I hadn't heard before. On this album, however, I think "On The Nickel" is just a wonderful song, right there with "Jersey Girl". The first time I heard it was Tom doing it live, and I was hooked. I suppose not a lot happens musically in the song, but you get a variety of Tom's vocal stylings, and I think the performance is beautiful. Different strokes, I guess. Thanks.

    Tyler Virginia
    I absolutely cannot believe you left off "On The Nickle." That is THE song that made me fall in love with Tom Waits. I was at a local bar and listening to some run-of-the-mill cover band, and they played a guitar version of that song, and I asked what it was and who it was by because it absolutely moved me, lyrically. Going home, doing some research, and buying the LP from my local record store, I fell entirely in love. The cracked, dying-man vocals on the song add a haunting amount of depth and honesty to the lyrics, and surreal lyrics of a world where poker's rules are changed and Thomas Jefferson's homeless evoke a timeless place. Were it not for this song, I would have never gone out and purchased "Closing Time," nor anything else by the great man. When I got to see him perform it live recently, it was like the culmination of the last fifteen years of my life. While I agree with you in general about Tom's work, this song is not to be overlooked and the mere absenc! e of which is on par with heresy and treason.

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    Swordfishtrombones 8 ( 1983 )
    Underground / Shore Leave / Dave The Butcher / Johnsburg, Illinois / 16 Shells From A 30.6 / Town With No Cheer / In The Neighbourhood / Just Another Sucker On The Vine / Frank's Wild Years / Swordfishtrombones / Down, Down, Down / Soldier's Things / Gin Soaked Boy / Trouble Braids / Rainbirds

    Reading the playing credits reveals something interesting. There are several different types of drums and percussion credits listed, as follows.... Parade Drums, Cymbals, Drums, Brackle Drum, Bass Drum, African Talking Drum, Snaredrum and Dabuki Drum. On the instrumental track, 'Rainbirds', four different players are credited with 'Glass Harmonica' as their contribution. A Baritone Horn and a Bass Marimba appear on the opening 'Underground', whilst Bagpipes appear on 'Town With No Cheer' and a Banjo on 'Shore Leave'. 'Swordfishtrombones' was Tom's first self-produced record, and you can imagine the reaction of 'Asylum' records upon listening to the songs, can't you? The two minute, twenty second long instrumental 'Dave The Butcher' sees Tom trace out a simple melody on a Hammond organ, whilst Bass Boo Bams (?) provide the only other instrumentation. It's a weird, spooky circus organ type of feel, very scary, very silly and very uncommercial. Still, no matter! Asylum/Elektra may well have ran miles and miles away from 'Swordfishtrombones' and dropped Tom from his contract, but Island Records picked up on it, so all was well. Tom's then new wife Kathleen was the one that persuaded Tom to go it alone and self produce, and it took some persuading too. Tom had come out of a tradition that dictated you had to have a producer. It took some nerve and bravery to go it alone, especially with this, largely experimental work - that ditches 'songs' altogether for a good third of the album, replacing them with weird little instrumentals instead.

    A few of the vocal tunes here are hardly reaching out to embrace the listener - the opening 'Underground' is Bark and Tree vocals and drums. That's it. Oh, a tiny little guitar too, but that's it! 'Trouble Braids' goes back to Tom's earlier Jazz leanings, but creates that Jazz feel thanks to an African Talking Drum and a Parade Bass Drum. Factor in driving and sweeping acoustic bass, and you have yourself something! Striking isn't even the half of it, and the track only lasts for seventy eight seconds. Most disappointing song on the album? 'Frank's Wild Years', purely because it retreats to the poet over a Jazz band approach he'd seemingly left behind. 'Johnsburg, Illinois' is a lovely 93 second long Tom plus Piano tribute to the birthplace of his wife whilst '16 Shells....' is a stomping barked series of orders, almost. Tom gets into character, a born actor. Both of these songs are great songs, and highlights of the set. 'Down Down Down' works with a Jazz vibe, but adds in other factors too - an organ pumping deliriously away whilst a guy furiously shakes a Tambourine in the background. 'Soldier's Things' is truly beautiful, with glorious lyrics perfectly placed and felt, a real picturesque song able to prod the listeners imagination into action. Beautiful singing.... and even the more 'usual' Waits material such as 'Gin Soaked Boy' sounds fresher than the material from 'Heartattack And Vine' for instance. So, a good return! A more than interesting return, and probably a career saving return.

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    Martin Jenkins York
    A good review of a great album. But no mention of the evocative "In the Neighbourhood" which is one of the best melodies here. Check out the video on Youtube - it's all you imagine the song to be.

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    Rain Dogs 9 ( 1985 )
    Singapore / Clap Hands / Cemetery Polka / Jockey Full Of Bourbon / Tango Till They're Sore / Big Black Mariah / Diamonds And Gold / Hang Down Your Head / Time / Rain Dogs / Midtown / 9th And Hennepin / Gun Street Girl / Union Square / Blind Love / Walking Spanish / Downtown Train / Bride Of Rain Dog / Anywhere I Lay My Head

    The 'Swordfishtrombones' technique of unusual instrumentation and much percussion continues, but married to finer songs. In fact, for the first time since 'Small Change' Tom writes a clutch of absolute classic songs, and these are the songs that propel 'Rain Dogs' forwards to that of masterpiece status. Oh, and he had a new guitar player - the guitar is glorious in places. A little solo through 'Cemetery Polka' for instance, striking and brilliant. The opening 'Singapore' sees Tom become Howlin Wolf, become Captain Beefheart, a furious vocal with absolutely stunning lyrics to match that'll have you laughing and screaming in equal turn. Spooky Piano like a serial killer prowling around a circus in a small country town is a feature of 'Tango Til They're Sore' and both 'Hang Down Your Head' and 'Time' are heartbreaking songs, truly beautiful songs anybody would have been proud to have written. The title song opens with strange and exotic as can be music, just an introduction. The album as a whole continues to cast a spell, captivating you. A very diverse collection, very diverse. As an example, 'Midtown' sounds like the very best Cop TV show theme it is possible for anybody anywhere to even begin to imagine! Just as a reminder, the likes of '9th And Hennepin' are classic Tom Waits prowling around darkened streets amid mentions of diesel and ditches - surrounded by a freaked out Jazz band. 'Gun Street Girl' has glorious guitar and thumping percussion, 'Union Square' sees Tom bark around Trumpets and nifty guitar, and everything is good in the world.

    Tom Waits sounds so much more assured here than he did on 'Swordfishtrombones', he sounds more confident and aware of the direction he was moving in. He knew it had worked, and would work again, and was working. A-ha! But, how does that explain 'Blind Love' being a gorgeous country-tinged ballad? And it doesn't even begin to explain Tom writing an actual hit single, the truly brilliant 'Downtown Train'. Suffice to say, the Waits version is far preferable to Rod Stewart 'interpreting' the Tom Waits version and altering the melody of the chorus. Tom sounds heartfelt, in fine voice - the chorus is ultra catchy and fine - the guitar perfect, absolutely glorious to accompany him. The spooked and weird instrumental 'Bride Of Rain Dogs' follows amid much Trumpet, with the closing 'Anywhere I Lay My Head' being a true classic song akin to 'Time', akin to 'Hang Down Your Head' and just like 'Downtown Train'. Only with added drunken dixieland  trumpet to close. "Seems that my pockets were filled up with gold" sings Tom, and why shouldn't he?

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    Simon Brigham slb23@shaw.ca
    I wouldn't give Rain Dogs a 9, but it's interesting, nonetheless. My favourite song is "Downtown Train". (I am a casual Tom Waits fan.)

    Jeff Bratz jeffbratz@hotmail.com
    I've been listening to 'Raindogs' with interest, enjoyment, bemusement and confusion over the past year. Not bad for one album. Tom seems to have explored every vanity and conceit known to him, and packaged them into the most idiosyncratic of lyrics. Tragedy and joy exist side by side, with a hint of the sinister. The journey portrayed in Singapore is like a boat ride across the river Styx. Death and redemption figure prominently.

    Matt Byrd MatthewByrd@hotmail.com
    Hunh.... the insane circus of Tom Waits.... it's relly not that insane. It sounds insane on first listen... and the ballads aren't paid attention to for a few listens after that..... that's the kind of album this is... it takes a while to sink in. It's worth getting to like, though. Many of the songs offer a rich, layered texture that really gives the album something. The album's best songs are the ballads (although not the most immediate). From the very gentle "Time" to the nice country-like fable "Blind Love" all the way to the Phil Spector-igh backbeats and muddled "Hang Down Your Head" and THEN to the Bruce Springsteen-like "Downtown Train." Despite my reservations this album has been recently catapulted to heights that are shared with Blonde On Blonde, Born To Run, Pet Sounds, Imperial Bedroom, Back To Mono, Hot Rats, Pet Sounds, and Songs In The Key Of Life.

    Never been a huge fan of the island period waits but im slowly starting to come round , especially the merits of rain dogs although it is in desperate need of a proper remastering . Basically toms set the template for his future work here with bizarre instrumentals,diseased blues,surreal polkas, jazzy backstreet odes and country ballads all collected in a fashion that often makes the listener feel like hes in a dodgem being whipped in one direction before being pulled to the next . The original combination of sounds and toms incredible lyrics combine to create something very different - at times difficult . My fave songs are "gun st girl" "time" "hang down your head" "blind love" and of course the timeless "downtown train" Special note has to be made of the instrumental contributions of marc ribot (guitar) and michael blair (marimba,percussion) who have gone on to help shape toms music for decades now , as well as a certain mr keith richards whos guitar fea! tures on "blind love" and "big black mariah" . Revising my opinion down the years im now listening to raindogs a lot - 8 out of 10 .

    Ben Leach
    Very fine review. This album is high in my mind, a beautiful collection of songs. Yet nothing on the album truly compares to 'Anywhere I Lay My Head' It gives us everything we ever loved about Tom Waits (His voice, his musical style er well styles and his ability to move on such a simple song) This one song could be a 8 for me but the other support it nicly. One of his best. One of the best.

    David Gray Glasgow, Scotland

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    Franks Wild Years ( 1987 )
    Hang On St Christopher / Straight To The Top / Blow Wind Blow / Temptation / Innocent When You Dream / I'll Be Gone / Yesterday Is Here / Please Wake Me Up / Frank's Theme / More Than Rain / Way Down In The Hole / Straight To The Top / I'll Take New York / Telephone Call From Istanbul / Cold Call Ground / Train Song / Innocent When You Dream

    'Swordfishtrombones' and 'Rain Dogs' become a trilogy thanks to Tom and Kathleen writing a play, titled after one of the songs from 'Swordfishtrombones' and based around the lyrical imagery of 'Rain Dogs'. The songs? Well, there are two versions of 'Straight To The Top', one subtitled 'Rhumba' and one subtitled 'Vegas'. There are also two versions of 'Innocent When You Dream', the barroom version bordering on Waits parody, the '78' version being suitably crackly and lo fi - glorious, heartbreaking simplicity. Tom sounds like he's singing from across the very moors he sings about. 'Blow Wind Blow' is very 'Swordfishtrombones' and could have come straight from that particular record. Tom's vocals have changed slightly for this album, less prominent, often buried beneath haze and booze and smoke. There are no classics here akin to those appearing on 'Rain Dogs', but there is still much to enjoy overall. "Tonight i'll shave the mountain" entertainingly goes the swinging percussion and groove of 'I'll Be Gone'. With the emphasis on 'Gone', the final word. "GONE!" sings Tom, as only he can. The music of 'Yesterday Is Here' is full of echo, sounds a thousand years old and also rather like a surf instrumental written and performed by a ghost being tormented in hell, during a brief respite in order to reflect upon it all. No, really it does! It sounds spooky and atmospheric as hell, and certainly like nothing from either of his previous two records, or indeed, anything else he'd ever done.

    'More Than Rain', like 'Innocent When You Dream (78)' sounds crackly and lo-fi, and this variation in sonic texture is very welcome. 'Way Down In The Hole' swings in a Jazz and stand up bass kind of a way and also features a top-notch Waits vocal to boot. 'I'll Take New York' has such a low bass sound, the floors vibrate and move, if you turn it up loud enough. Tom suddenly becomes Frank Sinatra, when Frank Sinatra is drunk and singing in the shower. This is funny, grin-inducing stuff! Very entertaining indeed. The trumpet player is drunk too, of course. "I'm gonna make it happen...." sings Tom, sounding like he's barely able to 'make' his legs stand up straight! Acting, acting, and gloriously so. Although, at this stage, i'm reminded of the cover art from 'Closing Time'. Look closely at the Piano, and you'll find 100 cigarettes and two bottles of beer on that Piano. Ah, maybe it was for effect? But, still, we like to believe, and Tom makes us believe.

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    Jeff Bratz effbratz@hotmail.com
    You should reconsider the 7 1/2 rating. This album is a sort of fruition of the themes and variations found in "Raindogs" and the '70's work. The dramatic narrative is lucid and the pathos of failure as a result of following one's dreams are moving. Dare I say this is a better album than "Alice?"

    Gary Williams g.williams@unison.co.uk
    Yes, this is a better album than Alice. I've been listening to Tom since the late 70's, and enjoyed so much of his work and his involvement in other projects, but this is the one I keep coming back to and I think holds togehter better as a piece. It's the one I find so difficult to pick out individual tracks to listen to -I just have to hear the whole thing each time. And does anyone know anything about his tour dates for the UK 2004? About bloody time, Tom!

    Colm Flanagan colmflanagan10@hotmail.com
    Couldn't disagree more about Frank's Wild Years track. The piece so successfully creates the 'Frank' character with it's dark humour and sharply focused images. 9th and Hennepin is Tom's greatest spoken lyric but this one's wittier, if not as poetic.

    Matt Byrd matthewbyrd@hotmail.com
    Hunh, after listening to Rain Dogs this is quite a departure. Wild Years has a much odder, less human feel to it. Even the ballad Innocent When You Dream is about, at least partly, insane or crazy people; that's not found on the sincere Hang Down Your Head or Downtown Train. But the Vaudvillian/Tin Pan Alley stylings of this record help really rocket this records into Tom's best work, even if it can be pretty alienating.

    Gazza Edinburgh
    I found this one quite hard to get into and as a result it lay in a box for some years but as my appreciation of waits grows ive been seeking out the island stuff again and enjoyed listening to this one in the car while driving around california , it just seemed to work better in a car !! However I dont think its quite as good as raindogs and i dislike the repeated versions of "straight to the top" and "innocent when you dream" . I felt it was unneccesary , i also cant handle a couple of tracks here especially "ill take new york". But the rest of it works spectacularly "st christopher" "temptation" and "down in the hole" which manage to invent a brand new kind of funk and the closing trio of istanbul/cold cold ground/train song is a fantastic sequence of songs . Waits recently performed 4 songs from this album in a amazing concert recently , none of his other albums were so heavily used for material which must say something about "franks wild years" durabili! ty . However it should also be noted that this was his 1st foray into the visual arts as well with the accompanying play - One of the hardest things for a musician to accomplish .

    Lee Japan
    Yep, I reckon you've nailed it again. 7.5/10 is about right. This is probably Waits' most under-rated album. Perhaps not as consistent as his previous two efforts, but there are a number of awesome tracks on it. "Innocent When You Dream" is a career highlight.

    Paul London
    This album tells a wonderful story. Many of the tracks take some getting used to, but it's worth it. Some outstanding moments. Straight To The Top (Vegas) is wonderful and 'Cold Cold Ground' (mispelt by the reviewer here) along with 'Yesterday Is Here' are, in my opinion, examples of some of the best work he ever did. Still though, this album is more about the story that is told. I couldn't give it anything less than 10 out of 10.

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    Bone Machine ( 1992 )
    Earth Died Screaming / Dirt In The Ground / Such A Scream / All Stripped Down / Who Are You / The Ocean Doesn't Want Me / Jesus Gonna Be Here / A Little Rain / In The Colosseum / Goin' Out West / Murder In The Red Barn / Black Wings / Whistle Down The Wind / I Don't Wanna Grow Up / Let Me Get Up On It / That Feel

    If 'Swordfishtrombones' had featured half a dozen different types of drum or drums, this album only contains five or six songs actually with drums, of any description. A variety of weird percussion replaces drums on a few songs, but a lot of the time it's just Tom and maybe one other musician ( usually Larry Taylor on bass ) providing all the instrumentation. Which is quite remarkable really, when you consider how full this album sounds. Another remarkable thing? Well, how about these two opening songs right here? Are these remarkable? Yes, sir! They most certainly are! 'Earth Died Screaming' is unique, utterly unique. Tom does his usual thing, albeit married to very dark and scary lyrics. What's remarkable is the sound of the thing. Upright Bass, Electric bass, Tom Waits playing Guitar, percussion and Chamberlain. And three people credited as playing 'Sticks', collectively called 'The Boners'. Sticks? It sounds just like bones rattling and being cracked and beat and clattered and old and...... Tom screams, the organ sound that closes the song is spine chilling. This truly is a brilliant song, and recording. Equally as brilliant a song is 'Dirt In The Ground'. Toms voice is especially notable here, sounding like groaning stairs, sounding like a preacher having given up the faith, given up optimism and just sat on a porch somewhere waiting to die. The lyrics reflect this, and added to 'Earth Died Screaming' creates one hell of a black atmosphere to open the record. So dark and gloomy, so effective, so impressive... A couple of clattering songs follow that sound like sheets of metal being swirled around the head, alternately banged with hammers. Up-tempo songs these, to counteract the doomy opening two numbers. Not that these are exactly upbeat! 'Bone Machine' creates an atmosphere, as all good Tom Waits albums do.

    'Who Are You' features sweet country tinged guitar, played by Tom himself, 'The Ocean Doesn't Want Me' is a weird spoken word piece over spooky percussion. 'Little Rain' is a glorious Tom Waits Piano ballad. His voice sounds a little like his 'Small Change' voice, the lyrics co-written with his wife Kathleen Brennan are perfect and evocative. The addition of a Pedal Steel to the upright bass and Piano is very effective. But, ah, 'Bone Machine' falls just short of matching Tom's very best records because the second side of songs doesn't match the first. A couple of fabulous moments are still waiting, and the likes of the growled slow grind amid beaten metal sheets sound of 'In The Colosseum' is still entertaining. 'Black Wings' sees Tom himself play drums, something I wasn't aware he could even do.... At least, he'd not played drums on an album before, that I know of. Still, the bass and guitar combine well here. 'Whistle Down The Wind' features gorgeous Piano as well as violin, accordion and Pedal Steel. The combination really works, a great song. And, ah! A true gem arrives with 'I Don't Wanna To Grow Up', a song that was later performed damn well by The Ramones, incidentally. Happy, silly lyrics, lo-fi strummed and bashed guitars. The closing 'That Feel' was co-written with Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, and er, of 'Keith Richards' too, I guess! Ah, Keith even joins Tom to sing some of the vocals in places. This weary country sing-a-long sounding like it's sung by a couple of ninety year old bluesmen, on a hot, hot late summers evening, just as the sky is about to, but not quite, turning dark...... just warms my heart. 

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    John Tewksbury mrtew@wowway.com
    Tom Waits is always addictive but That Feel is a song I could just lose myself in all day.

    Matt Byrd matthewbyrd@hotmail.com
    Bone Machine may be one of Tom's best albums... at least one of his most consistent, certainly not as interesting as Rain Dogs, however. Who Are You REALLY sounds like a Bob Dylan ballad in the Sad Eyed Lady Of The Low Lands type way.

    GAZZA Edinburgh
    Not sure that this falls down soooo badly in its 2nd half (although i agree the 1st half is superior) more that its a template for the more sucessful and stronger set that is "mule variations" Which covers a lot of the sonic terrain here more sucessfully . "mule variations" was far more commercial for sure , this one is stripped down to bare percussion and upright bass mostly to carry what semblance of tune their is . Although "way out west" has some filthy guitar sounds. Some of this album sounds like it was recorded through a ancient transistor radio , some of it in a barn in rural america . The subject of the songs on "bone machine" also seems to be invariably death,decay,murder or suicide - but somehow tom makes it sound like something to accept stoically and with comfort rather than fear or terror no matter how gruesome things get . No mean feat for sure! Tom also gets to hook up with keef again for "that feel" but to be honest its hard to hear what keit! h actually brings to the song, but it is a beauty ! 7.5/10

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    The Black Rider ( 1993 )
    Lucky Day Overture / The Black Rider / November / Just The Right Bullets / Black Box Theme / T'Aint No Sin / Flash Pan Hunter / Intro / That's The Way / The Briar And The Rose / Russian Dance / Gospel Train / I'll Shoot The Moon / Flash Pan Hunter / Crossroads / Gospel Train / Interlude / Oily Night / Lucky Day / The Last Rose Of Summer / Carnival

    Tom gets to write music for a theatre production based in Hamburg, and gets to indulge his fascination for German cabaret. He also gets to work with William Burroughs on a few songs here. None of the Burroughs lyrics particularly make any sense, but that's to be expected! And, if you're thinking Tom Waits is a strange kind of guy making strange music, then 'The Black Rider' if you've not heard it.... will blow you away. That's not to say you'll love it, or perhaps even LIKE it, but strange it indeed is. If that sentence reads like I don't care for this, then I've misled you. The strangeness, the German cabaret sounds, the quirky yet great lyrics... are all things here to be either admired, astonished by, or both. The country cowboy western from a cartoon styled interlude in 'Just The Right Bullets' makes you laugh. 'Flash Pan Hunter' sees Tom sounding more like Captain Beefheart than he has ever before, much more. And, er, i'm struggling here trying to describe this thing, to be honest with you. 'The Briar And The Rose' was written with Mr Burroughs and is a nice sweet Tom ballad. The sound of 'The Black Rider', apart from the German cabaret influences on the music... is difficult, uneasy, not approaching the listener. Rather Tom revelling in creating chaos and confusion. It's interesting at the very least, and occasionally, so astonishing you'll fall right out of your chair whilst listening. The title song is a highlight, very funny lyrically. Tom hams it up and invites you in to see the show.

    'Russian Dance' is deeply strange, very odd instrumental music, crackles and lo-fi and stomping with boots.... a saw is played on several of the songs. The string section that comes in through 'Russian Dance' sounds like no other string section I can think of. Everything is played 'wrong', everything sounds 'wrong', yet it sounds exactly right... and the boots keep on marching amongst it all. 'I'll Shoot Out The Moon' is a relatively straight kind of Tom Waits song, a crooning sweet song - but nothing is ever quite straight as far as 'The Black Rider' is concerned. I should explain at this point, I never saw 'The Black Rider' performed and don't particularly know the story behind it. I'm not judging 'The Black Rider' as a theatrical work, just this record right here in front of me. But then, good god, this album is weird! Everything here is deeply strange, one of the strangest set of songs collected together that I can immediately think of. 'Gospel Train' creates the sound of a train through all sorts of percussion and 'messing around' and Tom sounds, well, odd. 'Lucky Day' and the lovely 'Last Rose Of Summer' provide a semblance of normality towards the records close.... an album that has to be heard to be believed, if still not exactly understood.

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    Oscar miscreanty@yahoo.com
    This album reminds me of the beach boys "Smile" somehow. Not in syle of course, but because they are both distinct creations pushed right to their logical conclusions. You cant help but be moved by the sheer weight of Waits' personality that has gone into this album. Theres a few low moments, or rather things that _dont work for me_ (t'aint no sin, that's the way, etc.) although im sure other people can see things in them that i cant. But some parts are just stone cold perfect(The first 4 songs, Russian Dance, and Crossroads especially). Buy this album now! You wont ever find another like it! Ever!

    Steven R Hastings steven.hastings@blueyonder.co.uk
    You need to see the musical for this album to make total sense. The Black Rider is a fantastically authentic album. The musical styles are right - not homage or pastiche. If you do not dig this album then stay with Mule Variations, which is lightweight, easylistening and totally missable.

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    Mule Variations ( 1999 )
    Big In Japan / Lowside Of The Road / Hold On / Get Behind The Mule / House Where Nobody Lives / Cold Water / Pony / What's He Building? / Black Market Baby / Eyeball Kid / Picture In A Frame / Chocolate Jesus / Georgia Lee / Fillipino Box Spring Hog / Take It With Me / Come On Up To The House

    Tom leaves Island Records behind to sign to the less prominent 'Epitaph', and enjoys the biggest selling album of his career to-date! Hey, that's pretty cool. Also mighty cool and impressive is the album itself, an album arriving after a too long six year wait following 'The Black Rider'. He had written an albums worth of songs for a Theatre production 'Alice', a production which ran for eight weeks and was hailed by many as the lost jewel in the Tom Waits crown. The chance for Tom to record his own performances of those songs was held up, as it turned out because of contractual difficulties. Otherwise, we'd have had an album inbetween 'The Black Rider' and 'Mule Variations'. Still, all of that is an aside. 'Mule Variations' is a curious beast, in that for Tom, it isn't very curious at all compared to some of his past works. 'Mule Variations' comes across akin to a greatest hits set comprising all brand new songs, if you can imagine that for a second. Yeah, 'Mule Variations' is good, great even. These songs rank amongst his best work. The opening 'Big In Japan' recalls both 'Singapore' and 'Earth Died Screaming' and is pretty much as exciting and exhilarating as either. 'Hold On' is a fantastic song, deserves to be a proper hit single. Well, as long as Rod Stewart isn't the one to turn it into a hit, i'm happy enough! 'Get Behind The Mule' has a delicious bass line, 'House Where Nobody Lives' is just delicious, full stop. A truly beautiful ballad performed by Tom with Larry Taylor on bass and Marc Ribolt, the guitarist from 'Rain Dogs'. And god, i've got to mention 'Cold Water' because a weird thing happened to me one day, on a boiling hot English summer afternoon (?!). I was dripping sweat after having walked home carrying two heavy bags of grocery shopping. I put the shopping away, went upstairs and considered what to do. I decided to hold on the shower, and put on 'Cold Water' by Tom Waits instead. It cooled me down, I swear it did! This fantastic blues song beautifully performed, was like rain pouring down on me. Not too many artists can make me feel things like that, but it's great when it happens.

    'What's He Building In Here' is spooked, a Tom Waits piece of spoken story-telling with noises freaking you out in the background. 'Black Market Baby' opens with crackles and sounds exactly like an old blues record, the kind played to scare children. Well, it doesn't sound 'exactly' like an old blues record at all, come to think of it. It just sounds inspired by the blues - storytelling. 'Picture In A Frame' is one of the very best and most heartbreaking Tom Waits ballads, 'Chocolate Jesus' is perfect for a song consisting only of vocals, bass, harp, and guitar. Another beautiful ballad arrives courtesy of 'Georgia Lee', a loud beating and growled moment of aggression arriving with the fantastic 'Filipino Box Spring Hog'. There is more, much more than the songs i've mentioned. Moments of beauty, moments of darkness, blues and discordance. Everything here is worthy, a very solid set of quality songs and performances.

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    Eoin millivanilli@hotmail.com
    No mention of "Take it with me"?From the most sparce of introductions to the (almost)involuntary cry of "...its got to be more than flesh and bone", to the perfect placement in the last lines, this must be Waits' greatest song.A heart in mouth confessional before he shakes his head,comes to his senses and gives us the big whorey bear-hug "come on up to the house" to send us home.I just think this album deserves a little more credit than you've given it.Delighted with your bit on Alice though,a treasure lost and found,right?

    Andrew Mich andrewkylie@hotmail.com
    Mule Variations sounds so similar to Bone Machine, only less poignant. Its too pedestrian from the man who made Black Rider. I can see this anchouring awards, but to me its Toms least interesting music and my least played.

    gazza gary.hessett@dpd.csa.nhs.scot.uk
    My favourite of the anti -era waits cds. take it with me and picture in a frame are 2 of the prettiest things hes ever done . The breadth and range of the material is amazing and waits sings his ass off. This would be a good starting point to waits music as theirs something for everyone .

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    Alice 10 ( 2002 ) more best albums...
    Alice / Everything You Can Think / Flower's Grave / No One Knows I'm Gone / Kommienzuspadt / Poor Edward / Table Top Joe / Lost In The Harbour / We're All Mad Here / Watch Her Disappear / Reeperbahn / I'm Still Here / Fish & Bird / Barcarolle / Fawn

    It annoyed me when 'Alice' was released the same day as 'Blood Money', as many reviewers had only one review or feature to cover both albums. The songs for 'Alice' were written in 1992. The songs for 'Blood Money' were new songs, although the albums were recorded only months apart. See the review above for an explanation as to why the songs for 'Alice' weren't recorded sooner but the point is, such an approach does 'Alice' a grave disservice. Giving both albums the same grade does 'Alice' a grave disservice. 'Alice' is the finest set of songs Tom Waits has ever written and these songs have been recorded with immense care and detail. Second song, 'Everything You Can Think' creates its mood through 'Mellowtron', Pod, Cello, Swiss hand bells, Stroh Violin, French Horn, Trumpet, Bass and Electric guitar. The song opens with the sound of a train passing and Tom sings, beautifully, very gruff, yet the music swirling around him often like a sick, slowed down, nightmarish fairground ride is very evocative. Opening song 'Alice' is stone cold perfect. One of the finest songs I can think of anybody having ever written, anywhere. Beautifully performed and often I can't make it to the end of the song without crying tears of sadness, mixed with tears of joy and elation. I've cried deliriously, sobbing like a broken man - chest heaving, tears pouring down my face. The lyrics and vocal delivery are perfect, and so poetic. Truly beautiful, unsurpassed lyrics. A muted trumpet added to Piano and bass forms the musical backdrop but there's more than even that. It sounds almost like a an old LP rather than a CD, like a warped record. This effect adds a certain stately elegance to the piece. Well, i'll say no more of the song. I'll lose the thread, lose my place in the world altogether.

    'Alice' is an album of some of the most beautiful ballads i've heard in my entire life, all sung of course by Tom - in his deep gruff voice sounding a good thirty years older than it actually is. Following the impossibly lovely and perfect title song is a series of songs very nearly as good. So, damn good then? Well, yeah. 'Flower's Grave' is another song beautifully recorded and played, poetic lyrics and very affecting vocals. 'No One Knows I'm Gone' features Cello, Violin and Alto Viola and Tom sings so very well.... I can't think of a single other Waits records where he sings as well as he does here.. So, the finest ballads of his career? Pretty much, yeah. Of anybodies career, virtually. But of course, that's not all that's here. Remembering that the songs for 'Alice' were written right after his 'Black Rider' fascination with weird, twisted German cabaret suddenly makes sense of the storming, shouted delirious Jazz stomp of 'Kommienezuspadt'. 'Table Top Joe' is a breezy little drunken Jazz song. Again we can marvel at the recording, at the sound and 'ambience' of these recordings. Digital recording is often criticized for making albums sound sterile. Somehow, Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan together with engineers Oz Fritz and Jeff Sloan manage to make it sound like the songs are being performed right in your front room.

    The perfectly sad and lonesome, tear inducing beauty of 'Lost In The Harbour' is music so able to affect the emotions, it's almost too much at times. Even having listened to and reviewed over 600 albums for this site and listened to many many more... I just can't think of many songs and performances able to affect me quite like these do. 'I'm Still Here' is one minute and forty nine seconds long, another song that sounds ancient, timeless. Violin, Cello and Clarinet subtly accompany Tom singing at his Piano. A truly beautiful song as many of the songs here are. I have little choice but to give 'Alice' a perfect score, no choice at all, actually. And to think, when I first bought this, I was concerned that it'd never be able to top either 'Rain Dogs' or 'Mule Variations'. Well, 'Alice' isn't as diverse as either of those albums, but the songs are of such a high quality, that I usually have little choice but to completely surrender my very being to them.

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    Benjamin Smith benjs@ix.netcom.com
    I agree with you. I think its Waits best. Very complex music, hauntingly beautiful. I love the interludes in Lost in the Harbour, it takes a skilled musician to produce such an effect.

    Mark Paterson londonwriter@gmail.com
    totally agree with this as 10 out of 10. I can't believe how moving and special this album is. The moment he sings "...but I'm still here" breaks my hard heart. "Poor Edward" not only beautiful but dark and disturbing to give it the edge over most singer songwriters far and wide. Just a huge and utter gem of an album.

    Andrew Mich andrewkylie@hotmail.com
    How in Gods name can you give this a perfect 10 score ???? Are you dreaming?? or are you following suit with critics?? Alice is a great timeless CD, but nowhere near a kilometre of Toms best work. It does have emotive depth & haunting jingo's to boot, but please Adrian a little reality here. Tom has delivered many more vastly superior and complex music that is on Alice. This album doesn't actually cover new territories, nor deliver innovative sounds not heard on Toms previous CD's. Thats why it was shelved for so long!! It sounded similar to earlier work in parts. No frikkin way could you put this in any ball park with the depth & Krunch & aggresion & sentimenality of a "Bone Machine" or the underated gem "Real Gone". This is Tom breaking ground & taking risks. Alice is nice, but only nice Personally, I even prefered "Blood Money" & even "Black Rider" to it.

    Matt Wilson mrbewilly@yahoo.com
    I wanted to record my first reaction for posterity - I bought this album having never heard Tom Waits, based mainly on this review. After two listens I'm sitting at work thnking about this album and wanting to hear it again and I know that it's only a matter of time before I'm echoing the reviewer's sentiments. So for those who are in the same position I was in one week ago and thinking of buying this album, be prepared for the following: - several "what the..." moments on first listen... - destructive interference from spouse/significant other... - a momentary guilt about parting with hard-earned dough... - a niggling, won't-go-away desire to sit down in a quiet room and listen to it again.

    gazza garyhess44@hotmail.com
    I listened to this again lately after catching your review. Dont think its a 10 im afraid. take on board what you say about the ballads but id like to hear waits do an album of solely ballads in the style of the ones of here but like he did in the old days . Mule variations is a better snapshot of his breadth of vision and feel for the unusual in american music , it was the best of his recent albums and it hasnt been topped. this one gets a solid 7/10

    Max Turner maxturner@bigpond.com
    Hi. I took the rubbish out this morning and sitting there was a box of CD's someone has thrown out. I took the box bak up to my apartment and the first CD I took out was this one. Isn't it wonderful? I've always loved Waits and I can't help thinking he'd get a smile on his face by the way I discovered this most beautiful music CD ... I googled the CD and came up with your review .. I agree whole-heartedly. And Tom, if you get to read this .. this CD was found between the soundtrack for Oliver and The Antonio Carlos Jobim Songbook.

    Lee Japan
    Agreed. This one gets my vote for best Waits album, just ahead of Rain Dogs. A fine set of songs which tie together beautifully. Very consistent. That's everything I look for in an album.

    Dave Cavanaugh San Diego USA
    Reading these comments comes as a great relief to me. I thought I was the only one who ever got choked up listening to TW sing a song like "Fish and Bird" which to me is a hauntingly beautiful yet absurd story. I have a hard time listening to "I'm Still Here" when my wife is nearby because mixing her with that song hits me right in the emotional gut. "Alice" remains my favorite TW album, and I love listening to all of them.

    Ben Melbourne
    Spot on giving this 10/10. I'm glad I found these reviews as I was beginning to think I was the only one who felt this way about this album. After the second listen and ever since it feels like your watching an amazing stage production (which I think the songs may have been written for in 92 did i hear recently?). Not only do the songs create this haunting visual imagery, but they tie together in a beautiful, emotional story to produce waits' most complete and flawless album. And possibly the most complete album i've heard from any artist to date.

    Steven Scotland
    His greatest work. Beautifully recorded, left of centre (without being as "challenging" as Black Rider), and featuring songs that would bring a tear to a glass eye. This is an album that creeps up on you quietly. At the time of its release I would have cited Small Change as Waits finest. I agree with earlier comments that this got lost (in the harbour!) somewhat, due to its simultaneous release with Blood Money.Its a mature work - don't let that put you off. Fish and Bird is wonderful. An allegorical tale of the impossibility of love in some circumstances. It works as a metaphor for anyone who can't act on their desires because of competing interests.And I wonder why I feel a shudder when I hear the lines:"Behind every window, behind every doorThe apple is gone, but there's always the core"Not just Waits finest, but one of the greatest pieces of recorded music in my opinion. The influence of, and appreciation for this record will continue to grow. A genuine! masterpiece

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    Blood Money 8 ( 2002 )
    Misery Is The River Of The World / Everything Goes To Hell / Coney Island Baby / All The World Is Green / God's Away On Business / Another Man's Vine / Knife Chase / Lullaby / Starving In The Belly Of A Whale / The Part You Throw Away / Woe / Callipe / A Good Man Is Hard To Find

    Ah, I had trouble with 'Blood Money', i'll tell you all right now. Because 'Alice' affected me as much as it did, it took me a good while to appreciate 'Blood Money' or give it the time and attention it deserves. It's another good and fine Tom Waits album, although this time not quite amongst his best ever work. Even though 'Alice' and 'Blood Money' were recorded only months apart, things appear to have changed. That's probably an illusion, Tom is a strange fellow at times, but it's there, it's noticeable. His vocals are not of the quality of 'Alice' and the musical textures and backdrops appear to not have been so carefully arranged and prepared. Then again, 'Blood Money' is deliberately loose, is deliberately rough around the edges and that's part of its appeal. 'Misery Is The River Of The World' is a repeat ( kinda ) of 'Singapore', 'Earth Died Screaming' and 'Big In Japan' but varying the same theme is okay, if the song is as great as this undoubtedly is. "Everybody ROW!" sings Tom, and out you get your oars, swaying and swirling drunkenly and happily. Well, I do! Don't you? Tom makes you believe. The swinging Jazz of 'Everything Goes To Hell' is most entertaining, and the vocal is right up close, out to get you. 'Coney Island Baby' is a nice ballad but doesn't compare with much of 'Alice', not at all. More straightforward and less poetic all round, i'd say. Still, one ballad that does compare is the delicious resigned sounding 'All The World Is Green'. 'Blood Money' does have its share of great material, after all. Ranking in the 'Great Material' bracket definitely goes 'God's Away On Business' where Tom completely out does himself in the demented growled and shouted vocal stakes. Very, very entertaining stuff!

    'Another Man's Vine' is average Tom Waits, 'Knife Chase' an inferior version of 'Midtown' from 'Rain Dogs'. 'Lullaby' reprises the feel of 'Alice' to an extent, but the material isn't as great, the lyrics less captivating especially. Still a very lovely song, mind you. Ranking alongside 'God's Away On Business' in the 'very silly yet hugely enjoyable barked demented vocal' stakes is the fabulous 'Starving In The Belly Of A Whale'. 'The Part You Throw Away' is ultimately forgettable, the short ballad 'Woe' taken very slowly, very deliberately, every word felt and placed in the places they are meant to placed in. A-hem! The closing 'A Good Man Is Hard To Find' has fantastic lyrics and a brilliant acting vocal performance. Tom really gets into the character of the song, a song sounding like a sixty year old woman - a woman who used to be a hooker in her younger days - lamenting the lack of 'a good man'. I don't know if that's what it actually IS about by the way - it just sounds like that's what it's about. And, that's enough for me.

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    Steve Chapman stevendchapman@yahoo.com
    great reviews, i can really relate to having alice overshadow bloodmoney but please man, "that is the part you throw away" was forgettable to me like "no one knows im gone" and "lost in the harbour", those songs almost snuck past at first and then came back to haunt me in the middle of the night

    col_ives dcuneo@charter.net
    While I agree that this is not on par with his best material, I've GOT to disagree with you about "The Part you Throw Away". That is my favorite song and is what keeps me coming back to this album. It is so dark and sparse and downright gorgeous.

    peter kennedy pelu68@hotmail.com
    Blood Money is Waits' best work since the earth-scorching idiosyncratic invention of Swordfishtrombones. Refracting his Kurt Weill tendencies through a warped lens Waits creates a cracked hall of mirrors of theatrical freaks comparable to anything from the Weimar Cabaret era. A diabolically dark grand guinol meisterwork.

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    Real Gone ( 2004 )
    Top Of The Hill / Hoist That Rag / Sins Of The Father / Shake It / Don't Go Near The Barn / How's It Gonna End / Metropolitan Guide / Dead And Lovely / Circus / Trampled Rose / Green Grass / Baby Gonna Leave Me / Clang Boom Steam / Make It Rain / Day After Tomorrow / Clang Boom

    Tom always searches to change or evolve his sound every once in awhile. Throw in a couple of new elements. It's something that keeps his fans guessing and keeps them listening. The new aspect for this album is the use of Tom Waits voice as a human beatbox in some places, almost as another instrument. His son Casey dons the turntables, another new aspect. There isn't a single song here that features Toms trademark piano, another slightly different thing, and so on. We've a generous 16 tracks and an album lasting in excess of seventy minutes. The longest song here is the ten minute long, laid-back groove, of 'Sins Of My Father'. A blues a thousand years old - sung from the bottom of a well, in best Waits fashion. The shortest track is a mere forty six seconds long, the growled and shouted and human voice as percussion antics of the appropriately titled 'Clang Boom Steam'. A track somewhere in the middle of these two extremes is the enjoyable 'Metropolitan Glide', a genuinely funky excursion, funky without ever resorting to any instrumentation even slightly utilized within the Funk genre, I might add. Tom growls and sounds utterly astonishing. 'Hoist That Rag' is a perfect song to follow the 'Bone Machine' times ten opener, 'Top Of The Hill'. 'Hoist That Rag' sounds weary yet still includes shouting and growling and vocals and music meshing together to sound modern, and centries old, all at the same time. Some great guitar work is a feature of 'Hoist That Rag', turntables and human beatbox and everything sounding utterly astonishing - that's 'Top Of The Hill'. A song guaranteed to scare silly everybody you play it to. Now that's what I call music! Hits 96!!

    And, the hits just keep on coming, the loud slow drums of 'Make It Rain', a companion piece to 'Cold Water' of sorts, although sounding totally different in every respect. If that makes sense? The spoken word poetry of 'Circus' sits right in the middle of the album, breaks up the mood and adds variety. 'Don't Go Into That Barn' is a classic slice of Waits with truly great "hoo-hah" backing parts and 'Day After Tomorrow' a true heartbreaking Tom ballad of rare quality. Overall, 'Real Gone' is a genuine slice of Tom Waits, his muse working just fine and a notch above 'Blood Money', although not as great a piece of art as his masterwork, 'Alice'. Still, 'Real Gone' isn't just an album. Like all great works Waits has produced, it's an album that totally envelops you whilst its playing. That's a good thing.

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    Jan Miklas zoomonkie@hotmail.com
    Not being one for musical vernacular, this may come over as simple: Hoist that rag - what a tune!! Evocative lyrics, shocking gutsy vocals and Ribot plays a shiver that starts at the base of my skull, rattles right down my spine and keeps looping back again. Nice one Tom, keep it coming.

    Andrew Mich andrewkylie@hotmail.com
    MATE!! You finally nailed it with this review!! I love this CD, Tom's voice is weapon of mass destruction on it. The songs aggressively rock out on some tracks.I listen to music all day at work from Chill out's to Punk to Folk... Real Gone has a special place for me because of its unique raw approach. Marc Ribot plays the most inspirational and unconventional guitar hooks,you have to appreciate the mans talent. The album is nicely balanced between some loud thumping "wake your gramdma " tracks to soothing blues"y haunt vignettes..this CD lingers on longer than you think... To all people who dissed Circus, saying it did'nt belong on this CD. "WAKE UP TO YOURSELFS"...ITS A FRIKKIN TOM WAITS CD, A CIRCUS FREAKS SONG IS UNCONDITIONAL AND TOTALLY AT HOME..........plus, its got some cool poetic images in it...THANX ADRIAN for a COOL SITE filled with all the good stuff, I don't always agree with you, but I love your ability to express your opinion.

    gazza garyhess44@hotmail.com
    Again like many cds its WAY TOO LONG ! Why do artists feel the need to fill the disc to its max incorporating a fair deal of weak material which detracts from the record ? IMO tom could have left 4 or 5 tracks of this one easily and it would have worked a lot better . Hoist that rag,day after tomorrow and whens it gonna end are all strong waits songs but im starting to get the feeling that its time tom gave us something new , its all getting a bit predictable . Hopefully tom will surprise us again like he has before, id love to hear him work with daniel lanois for example .

    San Francisco andre HUNT
    RE 'Foreign Affairs' - just curious that this fine album is not included in the group of reviewed Tom Waits albums. Back in the day, when you heard a great bass line, like in Barbershop, you expected one on every album...they were so great. The bass lines disappeared....and Foreign Affairs the song has the mastery of Hoagy Carmichael. Mules Variations, by the way rates a ten...along with Small Change and Alice. Nobody talked about the sonics on Real Gone and its challenges to the ear...

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    Orphans 9 ( 2006 )
    Brawlers - 1.1 Lie To Me / 1.2 Lowdown / 1.3 2:19 / 1.4 Fish In The Jailhouse / 1.5 Bottom Of The World / 1.6 Lucinda / 1.7 Ain't Goin' Down To The Well / 1.8 Lord I've Been Changed / 1.9 Puttin' On The Dog / 1.10 Road To Peace / 1.11 All The Time / 1.12 The Return Of Jackie and Judy / 1.13 Walk Away / 1.14 Sea Of Love / 1.15 Buzz Fledderjohn / 1.16 Rains On Me - Bawlers - 2.1 Bend Down The Branches / 2.2 You Can Never Hold Back Spring / 2.3 Long Way Home / 2.4 Widow's Grove / 2.5 Little Drop Of Poison / 2.6 Shiny Things / 2.7 World Keeps Turning / 2.8 Tell It To Me / 2.9 Never Let Go / 2.10 Fannin Street / 2.11 Little Man / 2.12 It's Over / 2.13 If I Have To Go / 2.14 Goodnight Irene / 2.15 The Fall Of Troy / 2.16 Take Care Of All My Children / 2.17 Down There By The Train / 2.18 Danny Says / 2.19 Jayne's Blue Wish / 2.20 Young At Heart - Bastards - 3.1 What Keeps Mankind Alive / 3.2 Children's Story / 3.3 Heigh Ho / 3.4 Army Ants / 3.5 Books Of Moses / 3.6 Bone Chain / 3.7 Two Sisters / 3.8 First Kiss / 3.9 Dog Door / 3.10 Redrum / 3.11 Nirvana / 3.12 Home I'll Never Be / 3.13 Poor Little Lamb / 3.14 Altar Boy / 3.15 The Pontiac / 3.16 Spidey's Wild Ride / 3.17 King Kong / 3.18 On The Road

    A mammoth album containing some songs that fell behind the stove while making dinner and 30 brand new songs. The original concept of rarities and b-sides fell by the wayside and was left forgotten in a ditch somewhere. I'll describe the actual package itself first of all, if I may. Anti/Epitaph always put together good packaging. In these days of falling CD sales, packaging should be something every label actually puts some thought into. In keeping with the original concept of the album, the pages in the booklet are yellow and made to look like ancient parchment. There's also a healthy selection of weird and wonderful pictures. My favourite picture has to be one of Tom wearing swimming goggles and with a fish in his mouth. Anyway, what do we have here music-wise? Well, 'Orphans' is split into three different albums, 'Brawlers', 'Bawlers' and 'Bastards'. Approximately this means the present, the past and the future. 'Bastards' presents the twisted and weird, songs that barely resemble songs. Spoken word, twenty third century jazz music. 'Bawlers' sees Tom reunited for the most part with his piano aka 'Small Change' or 'Closing Time'. We hear naturally that his voice has aged since those days of yore, yet like an album such as 'Alice', Tom does these bottom of the beer-glass tear-jerkers so very well. 'Brawlers' features the noisier Tom, aka 'Mule Variations' rather than 'Real Gone', but more or less 'present' Tom Waits all the same. So, something for everyone, then? Well yes. Bearing in mind the sheer amount of previously unheard material here, if there's one particular song that doesn't do it for you, who cares? They'll be another 40 that will do it for you. You may recall by glancing upwards at my 'Mule Variations' thoughts that I loved 'Cold Water'. There's a song here very much in that mould and it's possibly even better. 'Rains On Me', ah, this is the stuff. Sung in a half-drunk, half desperate and wanting it all to end but you know it won't voice This is how the world will be / everywhere I go it rains on me and so forth. A couple of other delights, briefly. At least three noteworthy cover versions. Two Ramones songs, 'Danny Says' re-cast as one of Toms slow, tearful ballads. 'The Return Of Judy And Jackie' transformed into mutant blues, full of distorted noise, lots of percussion and the growled, having fun vocals of Mr Waits. Perhaps my favourite cover here though is 'Goodnight Irene', the old Leadbelly tune. I've always liked the song. Tom ( and friends? ) turn this into a 3am being turfed out of the bar final lament. No, really!

    In truth, there's too many songs here to digest in the usual couple of weeks an average album might take to fully digest with frequent and dedicated listening. This is an album that's going to sneak up on you one Sunday morning, you'll find yourself humming something like 'Fish In The Jailhouse', a noisy, barked jazz/blues and not something probably designed to be hummed along with. Even more enjoyably you can sing along in your best Tom Waits voice and fall over laughing when your vocal chords explode after about forty seconds. 'Lie To Me' has the uneviable task of opening 'Orphans' and does its job. A jerky, wonky sounding tune with Toms voice seemingly beamed into microphones situated in another room whilst he sings in the hallway. 'Two Sisters' is one of my favourite tracks on the more experimental 'Bastards' disc. A sea-shanty and recorded in true one hundred year old folk style, eg, Tom vocals and an accordian. A traditional tune, it does actually sound 100 years old, too. I'll finish in a moment, because I could not only carry on listening to 'Orphans' all day, but could write about it most of the day, too. My favourite tear-stained ballad here? 'If I Have To Go'. This could have come straight from the writing sessions for 'Small Change' and it's absolutely gorgeous, lovely. Chills down the spine, hair on hairs standing up straight. Put down your glass of whiskey and wave your lighter around in the air. 9/10? Yeah. A few tracks here and there don't work and it is a lot to trawl through all at once, but i'd say 'Orphans' is the perfect, representative album to demonstrate the full range of Tom Waits many talents.

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    Donal donalm1@hotmail.com
    "Orphans" will be seen as a masterpiece. "Brawlers" is a wonderful collection of skewed and eccentric takes on American musical forms. The variety of timbres (twangs,clatters, scapes, howls) and musical effects that Waits conjures up is amazing- and all this without recourse to synthesisers and digital technology!I just love "Bawlers". This is such a rich collection of melodic and deeply felt ballads and love songs-time, lost love being the principal themes.The opener, "Bend Down the Branches" sets a standard that is maintained across 20 beautiful songs. In itself, "Bawlers" would earn the epithet, masterpiece. I reckon posterity will look very favourably on Tom Waits' latest offering! The cd is beautifully packaged and the use of pages from old books full of useless information about famous dead guys is themtically relevant.

    gazza garyhess44@hotmail.com
    Im usually dead cynical about these kind of releases , they usually mean "contractual obligation" but I just wanted to say how chuffed i am with brawlers - so chuffed i havent heard the other 2 discs yet ! Its just what i wanted to hear from tom . These beautiful songs veer from country, tango,waltz and even a nod to the scots/irish ballads of toms ancestry. Its incredibly consistent and his best work since mule variations . Its hard to pick individual songs on such a strong set. Next hook tom up with rick rubin or daniel lanois , or maybe an album of duets with different guest vocalists ? I especially like his duets with crystal gale "one from the heart" and bette midler "foreign affairs" As someone who has been dissapointed with the mans output since mule variations this was a cracking xmas present - ill let you know my thoughts on the rest in due course !

    Frank Mullin frank_mullin_iv@hotmail.com
    To be honest, I am stuck for words when it comes to this album. Tom Waits is, and has been for some time, one of my very favourite musicians. When this album was released, I rushed-out and got the day it landed on these shores. What I heard has enthralled, bemused and thoroughly confused me since: HOW HAS HE MANAGED IT? It's been some time now since the gruff Waits, sat aloft a bar stool, clicked and spat his way about the musical world, but this album sees no dip in form and is one of the greatest musical concepts I've had the pleasure of buying on the year of its release. Thanks for this, Tommy boy... you're a flight from modern boredom!

    Gazza garyhess44@hotmail.com
    Of course earlier i was referring to "bawlers" which with time listening to i think is toms greatest record . Incredibly enough i prefer 'bastards'to 'brawlers' which is tom at his most absurd,whimsical and out there - its nice to hear him work with contemporary artists and songs (sparklehorse on dog door; daniel johnson on king kong) and i adore the use of keroac and bukowski texts that tom puts to music . He is very much their descendant (and not a bad stand up comic either judging by the hidden tracks) Brawlers i care for the least apart from the 50s style scorching rock of "lie to me" and the staples singers gospel of "lord ive been changed". "road to peace" doesnt come off for me - its toms most political lyric but the music doesnt fit it unfortunately . Happily he closes with the record with 2 strong tracks - but hell ill be listening to "bawlers" till the cows come home . Its music for curling up on the couch with someone you love with tom reminding you w! ith his songs that love and life are never out of reach.

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    Bad As Me 8 ( 2011 )
    Chicago / Raised Right Men / Talking at the Same Time / Get Lost / Face to the Highway / Pay Me / Back in the Crowd / Bad as Me / Kiss Me / Satisfied / Last Leaf / Hell Broke Luce / New Year's Eve

    'Bad As Me' is the first proper Waits album in seven years and if he leaves it another seven years before contemplating the next one, we probably won't get a next one. Bearing this in mind, 'Bad As Me' encompassing almost every style in his entire career makes complete sense, go out with a bang and a buck and with something any fan of any Waits era can dig. 44 Minutes of new Tom Waits music when he's now eight hundred and twelve years old may be as welcome as a punch on the chin that corrects your posture. Yes, Tom Waits is back and sounding much the same stylistically as he has since 'Bone Machine', the first dissapointing aspect of this album. Whilst his albums since 'Bone Machine' seem to have all tweaked the formula a little, 'Bad As Me' doesn't tweak anything as far as any long-term Waits listener is concerned. Still, if you've only a few Tom Waits albums and then you stumble into this.... you may well end up thinking it's the best thing he's ever done. The musicianship for one is absolutely blissfully wonderful. Marc Ribolt is on fire and those eerie Waits bones and stand-up bass do well too. That spooky Waits Piano that sounds like it's dying in a backstreet bar. The rattle and the shake of all the instruments and the way it sounds - this album has been expertly recorded, crisp and clear and yet 100 years old at the same time. Thankfully, a couple of genuine Waits classics feature, whether old fan or not. Upon Tom's induction into the Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame he stated the following, "they say I have no hits and that I'm difficult to work with... like it's a bad thing."

    'Bad As Me' flip-flops between loud and rattling and quiet and sad, both sides of the Waits coin, you might say. The slow songs are of a fine calibre, the best of which is for me is 'Talking At The Same Time', although 'Last Leaf' runs it a close second. 'Talking At The Same Time' is one of those Waits songs that seems to pop up and absolutely chime with the way you are thinking. For me personally, 'Cold Water' and 'A Little Rain' both did the same thing, chime with me emotionally. 'Talking At The Same Time' sees the nine hundred and twenty year old Tom sing falsetto as well as he ever did whilst stand up bass vibrates, Piano tinkles and the ghosts come up to chase your soul. 'Last Leaf' is the sound of both Tom and Keef Richards dying at the same time and romancing each other in their death-throes. Of the up-beat material, 'Chicago' is furiously fast-paced with bendy guitars and Tom imploring his listeners to 'All aboard!' towards the end. The title track is them old bones connecting to your thighs and your hips, enough said. 'Back In The Crowd' is to me Tom's tribute to the great Roy Orbison and doesn't it suit the both of them?

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    this page last updated 25/10/11

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