Everyone has a handful of albums they return to time and time again; the faithful old companions who always stand ready for you when your obsession with the latest new band has faded away. For me, the chief amongst those is Tom Waits' `The Early Years, Vol 2'.
Eight out of the thirteen tracks on this album can be found elsewhere in his discography, but for me this album proves true the old adage that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. There's just something about the whiskey-soaked blues vibe of the album that cuts straight to the soul. Waits possesses an enviable ability to convey the full range of emotion through each gravelly note he hits, and in my opinion he's the finest songwriter America has seen these past thirty years.
'The Early Years, Vol 2' definitely veers more towards the country side of Waits' range, coming as the title suggests from the earlier part of his career. Melancholic and at times slightly morbid, it's a wonderful introduction to the uninitiated. To me, there are four songs that particularly stand out - without detracting from the remainder, for each and every song on this album is a triumph in its own right. The opening track, though, surely has to be a contender for one of the greatest laments of unrequited love ever written. `Hope I Don't Fall In Love With You' is perfect, in every way.
'Mockin'Bird' is another song I find myself coming back to time and time again, laden with grief with that wry spark Waits is the master of running through every cadence. `Shiver Me Timbers' is a glorious old sea dog tune with some truly poignant lyrics, and `So It Goes', though simple, speaks to the heart of anyone who's ever lost someone they love.
Though technically this album might not be quite perfect, to me it's the epitome of everything Waits was about at this stage in his career, and it's one I can't see myself ever tiring of.