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Used Songs 1973-1980

4.6 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Elektra/Asylum
  • ASIN: 5553898196
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Format: Audio CD
The Asylum label period of Tom Waits' extraordinary career began in 1973 with his debut album "Closing Time" and ended 8 albums later in 1980 with "Heartattack & Vine". He then signed to Island Records and in 1982 released "Swordfishtrombones" to howls of joy, amazement, praise and derision - all in equal measure. And most of his albums on Island ('82 - '93) and Anti ('99 to the present day) have been the same ever since - mad, bad, beautiful, discordant and utterly unique in a world of increasingly plastic pop forced down our throats by gutless radio programmers every single day of our lives. Personally I love each period, Asylum, Island and the Anti label. And although the word is often overused, Waits is a genius - and utterly unique - beloved by both his fans and the industry for being so.

His Asylum albums were - if you like - his romantic troubadour period, a drunken Street bum with the heart of a poet and the itchy feet of Bukowski. He looked and sang the part too - greasy hair, freshly lit cigarette hanging out of his gob, wrecked clothes, a chronicler of the downtrodden and lost. But this was an artist whose songs were written with charm and real feeling for those on the outskirts - often touching and beautiful to a point where he could make you laugh with one song and cry with the next. But by "Heartattack & Vine", he had taken this persona it as far as it could go - hence the complete about face with his Island debut.
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Format: Audio CD
For any hardcore Waits fan, compilations are always going to be slightly infuriating, because there will be quite a lot of understandable inclusions, but also some mystifying exclusions. That's true of this compilation, just as it was true of Beautiful Maladies, and before that, The Asylum Years. Even though the former was compiled by the genius himself, the exclusion of 'In The Neighbourhood' and 'Soldier's Things' was unfathomable (perhaps suggesting the artist should not put together compilations of his own work). Here we have the baffling exclusion of the best song Tom wrote during the Asylum period - 'Ruby's Arms', arguably the saddest love song ever written. But we do have some nice inclusions like Wrong Side Of The Road and Whistling Past The Graveyard from Blue Valentine, and the wonderful and very underrated 'Muriel' from Foreign Affairs, which contains one of the most brilliantly stylised Waits vocals ever (just the way he sings 'penny arcade' is vocal genius). One can only wonder at the inclusion of Mr Siegal, never a Waits classic, when they could have featured his great ballad On The Nickel instead. The fact is that Tom Waits fans have to compile their own tape of favourites, rather than purchase somebody else's idea of a Best of. The album finishes with Tom Traubert's Blues, which has always been a bit overrated, despite a lethal vocal from the man - the lyric doesn't work as well as some others. Overall, it's an adequate portrait of that period, and does have his classic diner song, Eggs and Sausages, which represents the mid seventies period well, but one is left wishing for a slightly different sequence of tracks. (You gotta have 'Somewhere' on it, right? His best ever vocal performance). Could have been better, could have been worse. 'Asylum Years' is a slightly better compilation of that period, probably.
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Format: Audio CD
The problem with compilations is that you win some and lose some all at the same time. While Waits' music is sometimes difficult and sometimes easy, none should be missed. If you only want one album this will do... but beware, if you listen to it more than once you'll end up buying everything - and humming it to yourself constantly!
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
if you have any interest in music especialy the recent Mumford and Sons / Jake Bugg types you can't fail to be interested in Tom Waits. If you look under Gravel Voiced in the dictionnary there will be a picture of this man!. Buy this and get educated to why he is as influential as Dylan.
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Format: 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?
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