1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Five star content... so why just four stars?,
This review is from: Used Songs (1973-1980) (Audio CD)
All the material on this compilation is top drawer vintage Waits, and, as an introduction to his early years, thinking particularly of someone that might not know Waits at all, it's very good primer.
If I'd compiled it, I might've made some different choices, but it does do a decent job of representing the range and diversity of pre-Swordfishtrombones Waits; from his first, and rather softer and sweeter album - Closing Time is represented here by the single track, 'Ol' 55' - through to the more gritsy and gravelly, ditry electric blues of Heartattack And Vine, there are tracks from each studio album, ranging from the mellow (the title track of Blue Valentine, or Burma Shave from Foreign Affairs), to the more upbeat, like 'Step Right Up' from Small Change. By closing off the period covered in 1980 they miss the rather anachronistic One From The Heart OST, which is a shame I think, and had they gone for the straight decade then Swordfishtrombones would've been within the scope of the compilation, but perhaps there were licensing issues with those albums.
So, not only is the material all top notch, this compilation also does a good job in terms of being representative. Why only four stars?
Well, I guess it's simply that I love Waits' music so much that I find this slightly superfluous. I was bought a copy as a gift, and as a Waits completist I'm happy to own it. But seeing as there's nothing on it that isn't on the regular releases, it only rarely gets played. Sometimes it's nice to hear it, as a kind of edited highlights 'playlist' experience, albeit someone else's picks. Also, and here I'm being more picky, it's not as nicely put together in aesthetic terms as, say, The Asylum Years. That compilation would also score four out of five for me, for similar if slightly differing reasons.
If you don't yet know the joys of Tom Waits, then this is a good place to start. Or, if you love Waits, and want to get someone else hooked, then either this or The Asylum Years are potentially good gifts, particularly if you think the intended beneficiary is likely to be more of an 'early years' type Waits fan. Or if you know your Waits, but you just happen to really like the selections made here, it might appeal (but in these days of MP3 playlists, compiling one's own fro the original recordings is probably a preferable option).
Top notch music, and a good representative compilation, but the original albums can't be beaten. And ultimately that's why this can only be a four star affair.