THE BARGAIN BUY: Tom Waits: The Original Album Series (Rhino)

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Tom Waits: Small Change
THE BARGAIN BUY: Tom Waits: The Original Album Series (Rhino)

Although Tom Waits' dramatic change of musical direction after 1980, curated by his wife Kathleen Brennan who help him forge connections with the avant-garde, has lead to his music being much admired and respected, there were many who might still agree with critic Ian Penman who was bold enough to admit, "Personally I prefer mid-period Waits. Blue Valentine is my favourite, and I find something a tad 'off' abut most of his subsequent work . . . it doesn't touch me, ever, the way the mid-period stuff does".

You suspect he might be speaking for many who still get affected by Waits' battered piano ballads and twisted Beat poetics on those early albums.

And although I genuinely love a lot of Waits' work over the past three decades, I too have a soft spot for his albums Heart of Saturday Night (I had a radio programme named that in 1980-81) and Small Change.

Those looking for a refesher in early Waits after his new album Bad As Me (where two of the standouts are battered piano ballads of "the old style") need look no further than this comprehensive collection of five albums: Closing Time from '73, Heart of Saturday Night ('74), the double live Nighthawks at the Diner ('75), Small Change ('76) and Foreign Affairs ('77).

Across these five discs are classic Waits songs: Ol' 55, I Hope That I Don't Fall in Love With You, Shiver Me Timbers, Diamonds on My Wind Shield, Please Call Me Baby, The Ghosts of Saturday Night, Tom Traubert's Blues, I Wish I Was in New Orleans, The Piano Has Been Drinking, Pasties and a G String, Small Change, Jack and Neil, I Never Talk to Strangers, Burma Shave . . .

JB_HZ_CHEAP_longWonderful songs.

And if you "like his old stuff" then here's the good news.

These five come as a set for just $20 at JB Hi-Fi stores here.

And that, my friends, is an essential Bargain Buy.

Tom Waits' new album Bad As Me is reviewed here. And Waits is interviewed here.

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Mike Rudge - Nov 1, 2011

What a great buy. The only problem with these five fors is that I usually have at least two. In this case I have all 5 (ditto the Los Lobos). There are four classics here in my opinion - but the one I keep coming back to is Closing Time - there are simply some classic songs on it (Ol' 55, Martha,I hope I do not all in love with you and Grapefruit Moon) - that all stand the test of time. While there is hardly a trace of Bad as Me on this album - it still shows what a talent he was (and how much against the grain he was even then). The only miss in the set in my opinion is the Nighthawks one - an interesting idea a live show of new songs that really only neil young and recently Richard Thompson have also done with aplomb.

Relic - Nov 2, 2011

Great value alright. “Shiver me Timbers” “Piano” etc. Southside Johnny did a Waits cover album a couple of years back called “Grapefruit Moon” with La Bambas Big Band, Barry Charles an aussie Jazz & Blues festival player with a throat singing style! did one too. Which is weird, anyone can cover Dylan because of the skeleton of the songs, but Waits is hard to cover without invoking parody.
Got Orphans Brawlers etc a while back and was rapt. While I view Tom as a bit of a Brian Wilson figure really these days in terms of his minder, it is always ultimately in the grooves as they say. Had 2 70s posters “rather a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy”, “a day late, a dollar short, lips around a bottle, foot on the throttle, music under a muscatel sky” that said it all really.

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