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Album Review

Bad As Me

October 25, 2011

"With my coat and my hat/I say goodbye to all that," snarls Tom Waits on "Chicago," hopping a train rhythm of horns, harmonica, banjo and electric guitars. The opener of his latest set is a classic American narrative: a hard-luck case setting out for...

Song Review

"Bad As Me"

September 2, 2011

What's that racket? A wounded beast bellowing over the primeval swamp? A circus band tumbling off a cliff? Oh, right – it's the new Tom Waits song. The kickoff to Waits' forthcoming 17th studio album is a gloriously ramshackle thing, with pop's...

Album Review

Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards

November 13, 2006

When Tom Waits claims he doesn't know why he called this three-CD set Orphans, he's being cagey. Orphans obviously began as an outtakes collection — unreleased work tapes plus old soundtrack, tribute and benefit tracks. Only then, Waits, painfully...

Album Review

One From The Heart

March 4, 2004

Tom Waits' 1982 soundtrack to Francis Ford Coppola's offbeat musical is a smooth-sailing counterpart to a beautiful car crash of a movie. Recorded before Waits' raspy croon turned into a hacking cough, this is the singer-songwriter's sweetest jazz, and...

Album Review

Blood Money

April 25, 2002

For a guy who operates in self-imposed exile from this business we call show — going an eternity between albums, even longer between tours — Tom Waits knows how to make an entrance. In the first line of "Poor Edward," a tall tale of satanic...

Album Review

The Black Rider

July 31, 1997

Just when it seemed that Los Angeles' premier bar casualty could not get any weirder, on his 15th album, Tom Waits teams up with beat writer William Burroughs (who turns up on one song) to score a 19th-century opera. The 20 tracks, written for director...

Album Review

Frank's Wild Years

October 8, 1987
Not Rated

The champagne wishes and caviar dreams of two-bit drifters have been Tom Waits's stock in trade through a fourteen-year career. And this album, subbilled as Un Operachi Romantico in Two Acts and comprising songs drawn from Waits's stage play of the same...

Album Review

Swordfishtrombones

November 24, 1983

Tom Waits' new album is so weird that Asylum Records decided not to release it, but it's so good that Island was smart enough to pick it up. Half of the fifteen cuts — the dirty blues, poetry recitals and odd instrumentals — would not sound...

Album Review

Blue Valentine

March 22, 1979
Not Rated

Tom Waits tells the same stories all the time — the small-time gangster who gets blown away by the big boys, the tough whore who sleeps with a torn-up teddy bear under her pillow, the barely employed sucker who spends his spare time and puny paycheck...

Album Review

Small Change

December 30, 1976
Not Rated

The people who populate Tom Waits' songs are deeply rooted in 20th-century American mythology. They come from tough-guy novels, pulp magazines, radio serials and film noir. Waits isn't interested in the heroes of this fiction, but with the people who...

Album Review

Closing Time

April 26, 1973
Not Rated

Singer/songwriter/pianist Tom Waits is more than a chip off the Randy Newman block. Though he sounds like a boozier, earthier version of same and delights in rummaging through the attics of nostalgia, the persona that emerges from this remarkable debut...

Album Review

Glitter And Doom Live

November 23, 2009

Director Terry Gilliam recently cast Tom Waits as Satan; what better role for this seductively jive-talking fallen angel? Waits' second live retrospective plumbs his later LPs, especially 1992's Bone Machine and 2004's Real Gone; it misses classics like...

Album Review

Real Gone

October 28, 2004

Tom Waits bellows through Real Gone like he's been knocking back pure lava, rasping out sinister names and details: Horse Face Ethel, Knocky Parker, "a tattoo gun made out of a cassette motor and a guitar string." Waits has all but purged his early records'...

Album Review

Alice

April 25, 2002

For a guy who operates in self-imposed exile from this business we call show — going an eternity between albums, even longer between tours — Tom Waits knows how to make an entrance. In the first line of "Poor Edward," a tall tale of satanic...

Album Review

Mule Variations

May 13, 1999

What Tom Waits does to the blues is something like what newspapers do to bright colors — in the way that a picture of the Sistine Chapel's ceiling ends up looking like roast beef in the morning edition, Waits' arty, seasick imagination turns a rural...

Album Review

Bone Machine

October 29, 1992

For more than twenty years, Tom Waits has chronicled the small wins and grotesque losses of the seedy underworld. Bone Machine, his first full-length studio album since Frank's Wild Years (1987), continues observing a world of deathly mysteries, half-baked...

Album Review

Rain Dogs

November 21, 1985
Not Rated

Tom Waits' biggest problem has always been a tendency to romanticize the abyss. His claustrophobic night world — peopled with crusty old salts, whores with hearts of gold and three-time losers — is all margins and no center, a sentimental...

Album Review

Heartattack And Vine

February 5, 1981

On Heartattack and Vine, the patron saint of America's hobo hipsters returns to the sentimental ballad style he abandoned for jazzier, less song-oriented turf after The Heart of Saturday Night. Though Tom Waits' new album sports its share of slinky blues...

Album Review

Foreign Affairs

November 17, 1977
Not Rated

The admiring audience that Tom Waits built up with his early work now worries about him in a way that does his derelict's persona proud: when is that old boy gonna straighten up? Closing Time was a quiet classic in 1973, but with The Heart of Saturday...

Album Review

The Heart of Saturday Night

December 5, 1974
Not Rated

Tom Waits is an urban romantic poet whose lyrics echo the oral Beat poetry pioneered by Kerouac, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti and Corso in the Fifties. Like the Beats, Waits has an ear for the underlying rhythms of American speech and an impressive ability...

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