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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 13 August 2006
This is the Tom Waits album that I keep coming back to. It was also the first one I heard many years ago and its appeal has really lasted. For anyone who hasn't heard any of Waits' music before it is also the ideal point to come in. Some of his earlier and later works ('Small Change', 'Real Gone', 'Frank's Wild Years')are much more inaccessible and require a lot of patience whilst his early stuff like 'Heart of saturday Night' is pretty unrepresentative of the bulk of his work. 'Rain Dogs' has the advantage of perfectly capturing the spirit of Waits but also being an album of very good songs. But be prepared to work at it if you are coming to Tom Waits fresh then he requires a couple of listens after the initial reaction of "What the hell is this!?!" It is wonderously atmospheric in its representation of society's dark underbelly. Waits' gravelly, liquor-soaked voice fits perfectly with the weird, carnivalesque music of tracks like "Singapore", "Rain Dogs" and "Cemetary Polka" whilst the latino-inspired "Jockey Full of Boubon" is a wonder. The lyrics throughout are simply amazing - lyrics don't come much better than "Uncle Bill will never leave a will, and the tumor is as big as an egg. He has a mistress, she's Puerto Rican, and I heard she has a wooden leg". There are just too many standout tracks here to mention, true of 'Rain Dogs' more than any other of Waits' albums. However, "Time" is simply Waits at his best musically whilst "9th and Hennepin" is him at his most poetic and evocative. Musically this album has taken virtually the entire gamut of music from jazz, blues, latin dance, rock, Cajun and American folk as its inspiration. Its beyond measure in its reach. One of the best albums ever made. (10/10 - I've loved this for years, I still do)
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on 1 May 2002
This has been my favourite album for the last 10 of the 15 years I have owned it - in spite of some of the more accessible tracks like Downtown Train, Gun Street Girl and Blind Love, the album as a whole took some time to really take root in me. You may not love this right from the start but give it time, it gets under your skin. The lyrics and dogged pace of Singapore is unlike anything else (who else could describe sailors' shore leave activities as "making feet for childrens' shoes"?!), to the darkness and dankness of 9th and Hennepin, the rocking track Walking Spanish, to the 3am, whisky fuelled version of Anywhere I Lay My Hat, it's going to take at least another 10 years before I get bored of this classic.
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on 10 May 2002
This is THE strangest and most evocative album I've ever heard. I agree with a previous reviewer that it does get under your skin, the melodies and lyrics, on first hearing, seem ugly and discordant, but the more you listen the more you realise just how complex, clear and beautiful they are.
This may sound strange, but somebody should make a movie just to fit around this album...featuring seedy, foggy docksides, whaling ships, sweaty Cuban jazz clubs, hookers, cops, cigars, bourbon, tequila and steamy downtown neon-lit streets - it's all in there.
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on 30 March 2005
This is currently one of my favourite albums. I discovered Tom Waits through a friend who told me that if I liked Bob Dylan (which I did) then I would like Tom Waits (which i do!). This album offers the perfect introduction into the weird and wonderful world of Mr Waits. From the opening track "Singapore" right through to the rousing "Anywhere I lay my head down" you will be blown away.
I must admit, that the first time I heard this album, I hated it. I couldn't understand what he was saying, and the music seemed a little too weird for me - indeed, even Waits calls his sound like a "junkyard opera". However, if you too find Waits voice a bit grating at first, I urge you to persevere. It's about to get a whole lot better. This is one of those albums that grows on you with every listen.
Things to look out for: The amazing intro to the title track "Rain Dogs", lines like "while making feet for childrens shoes" in "Singapore", and irresistably appealing instrumentation in all of the songs!
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on 2 August 2004
If you ever want to get an understanding of just how varied Waits is, listen to, oh, Nighthawks At The Diner... then this. This is a dark, funny, difficult, and complex work; and is, to my mind, the first time Waits really let his nightmares loose. Listen to this album, stick with, listen to it in the dark midnight, in the car, in the bath. Pretty soon, you won't want to be without it. The imagery is downright "wrong", in the same way that a Lynch film is just "wrong", you know you shouldn't watch, but before you know it, you're hooked; Singapore is damn disturbing for instance. The musicianship is awesome - the broken melody of Tango 'Til They're Sore is incredible, the whole song sounds like it's about to collapse in on you, and magically manages to make it through.
Even if you're not a full on Waits nut, this is an essential purchase for anyone interested in music, and what it can be.
Buy it now!
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on 20 June 2001
A collection of dark, twisted songs about the freaky and perverted side of life. Has been described-correctly in your reviewer's opinion-as Swordfish Trombones part 2. Here though the songs are fuller and more rounded. Each song is more complete in its narrative than in the preceeding album. Rain Dogs is romanceless, romance being replaced with a sort of brothel-humour. The listner is left to drink and dance with shotgun-criminals, tattoed sailors, and gambling dwarves.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 22 December 2014
In 1983 an already eclectic artist took a true left turn and came up with a trilogy of albums that surprise, confound and delight in equal measures. Rain Dogs is the middle album of that trilogy and is a tremendous introduction to an artist who has been responsible for more hit songs than you realise. A unique gravel voice that makes Rod Stewart sound like Aled Jones in comparison, the opener "Singapore" is warning enough that you are in for something different. A wry sense of humour and sharp observational lyrics permeate the songs, with "Downtown Train" probably the best known. What's also apparent is the wide mix of styles, unusual instrumentation, and top tracks like "Jockey Full Of Bourbon" and "Walking Spanish" and especially "Cemetery Polka" to delight in. A great album from a sadly underrated talent.
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on 29 September 2000
I bought this album on the recomendation of a friend. My first reaction was that he'd conned me into buying a throat cancer benefit album. However after listening to it a few times I couldn't help but love it. There's so many songs (19 in all) and so many GOOD songs. Personally my favourites are Raindogs, Walking Spanish, Jockey Full of Bourbon and Gun Street Girl. But really, the whole thing is just brilliant, this is a record which I want with me in my coffin.
Raindogs is the blues but at times it paints life so black you can't help but smile. It's in the music and it's in the words. There's moments of true epiphany too, eg. "Ah, there's nothing wrong with her $100 wouldn't fix." To hear it as it's meant to be heard requires solitude and a bottle of whisky, but this is genuinely on of those records which changes your perception of the world. It's worth the hangover.
It may be based on the blues but the quality of the song-writing is such that it becomes undefinable. One track (9th and Hennepin) is just spoken word, there's a couple of radio-friendlies (notably Downtown Train) and some which are just just downright odd (esp Singapore). This is probably why so few people have it despite its quality. But this is a diamond of a record - and you don't want every pleb in the world covered in diamonds, do you?
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on 19 December 2014
The Master of Quirkiness does not disappoint with this album. Tom Waites is a refresher for a jaded musical pallet with his off key musical themes and syncopating beats all overlaid with his sometimes gravel on sandpaper and sometimes honey over whiskey voice. Dont come to Tom expecting anything other than Tom Waites... I cant think of anyone who is like Tom Waites, he is a gem of a artist and something of an acquired taste. Listen to the album it at least twice as its a grower.
Theres something for everyone here, from up tempo dance numbers like "Jockey full of Bourbon",a touch of Country in ""Blind Love", Americana in "Gun Street Girl" to sweet sad songs like "time" , theres even a poetry reading in 9th & Hennepin and its all done in Tom Waites inimitable style.
Stand out tracks for me, Singapore, Time, Raindogs, Jockey full of Bourbon but with Clap hands, Tango til they're sore, Diamonds and Gold, Gun Street Girl, and Union Street close behind. Midtown and 9th and Hennepin are the only ones I am not awfully keen on.
Tom Waites is a Old Master at painting pictures with lyric and music and this album is a fine example. Bass Saxophones, double bass, big twangy guitars, ordinary guitars, piano, what sounds like a melodica, xylophone... Waites enjoys his traditional instruments and his ofttimes dark and moody lyrics then he pulls a soft and loving tune from nowhere and sings direct to your emotions.
Tom Waites is a bit of a Marmite artist, you'll either love him or hate him but he is worth discovering and this album is a great place to start. Give it more than one listen, cherry pick the songs you love if you have to but turn off the TV and just LISTEN!
If you liked this then do try Swordfishtrombones, Bone Machine, and Franks Wild Years.
"I'm on the lawn with someone else's wife,
Come admire the view from up on top of the mast" as a Jockey full of Bourbon invites you!!
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on 13 October 2015
'Rain Dogs' is probably my favourite Tom Waits album. It showcases his excellent song writing skills on tracks like the title number and 'Downtown Train'. It also benefits from the contributions from some very good musicians. William Schimmel plays accordion on a few tracks and Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones plays guitar on a couple of numbers, and they both make telling contributions to the music. The musical instruments used on this album include a banjo, a bowed saw and the aforementioned accordion. This gives the album a very distinctive sound quite unlike most of the other records from the mid-1980s, a time when a lot of recording artists were using synthesizers and drum machines.

Whereas David Bowie had enlisted the help of Nile Rodgers as his producer, and added a prominent disco beat to a lot of his songs at this time, Tom Waits steadfastly ploughed his own furrow. Some of the songs on this record would not be out of place in Kurt Weill's 'Threepenny Opera'. Although Tom has the benefit of some very good quality musicians here, including Marc Ribot on guitar and Robert Musso on banjo, Tom is still the undoubted star of the show. His gravelly voice has rarely sounded better, and his lyrics are full of shop soiled beauty.
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