Good news, Tom Waits is reissuing his first seven records, remastering them. I’ll admit I’ve played all seven today, and on many days in the past. Waits weirder, later material is good too, but tbh, I cannot listen to it all in a bunch, rather picking out a side or two at a time.
Anyway, Stephen M. Deusner reports:
Tom Waits had one of the wildest trajectories of any rock artist in the 1970s—or possibly ever. A regular presence in San Diego’s coffeehouse folk scene in the late 1960s, he was living out of his car when Herb Cohen, the manager for the Mothers of Invention and Linda Ronstadt, discovered him and helped to secure a record deal with the fledgling Asylum Records. David Geffen and Elliot Roberts had just opened the label in 1971, but already it was a home to some of Southern California’s finest singer-songwriters, including Jackson Browne, Judee Sill, Joni Mitchell, and Neil Young. Waits was plugged as a like-minded artist, based on songs like “Martha” (covered by Tim Buckley) and “Ol’ 55” (covered by labelmates the Eagles).
As the decade progressed, Waits grew weirder and woolier, indulging his penchant for weapons-grade schmaltz as well as his fascination with Beat jazz and the seedier byways of Los Angeles. With each album his voice curdled more deeply into a whiskey growl, often sounding like Louis Armstrong after a bender. His songs sprawled into strange recitations about gutter characters: strippers and barflies, hucksters and grifters, vagrants holding up lampposts and waitresses slinging hash. During it all, Waits maintained strict control over his craft—his music rarely seems haphazard—but bent his songs into new shapes to portray characters and convey emotions that didn’t have much of an outlet in pop music at the time. If his peers and labelmates were Laurel Canyon, Waits was the more sordid Tropicana Motel.
Waits’ current label, Anti-, is reissuing his first seven records, first on CD and on LP over the next few months, chronicling his time at Asylum. Newly remastered but without any bonus material, they form something like a road trip through an America that maybe never existed except in Waits’ own head, or perhaps a novel about an artist defining himself against pretty much every major trend. However, just because they show Waits getting comfortable in his own skin and learning how he could present himself to his fans, these albums comprise more than simply a prelude to his remarkable run of records in the 1980s and 1990s. These seven albums constitute the first act of a remarkable career, even as these reissues complicate that trajectory from assembly-line singer-songwriter to eclectic iconoclast.
(click here to continue reading Tom Waits: The Asylum Era Album Review | Pitchfork.)
and then gives a brief review of each of the seven (most of which I agree with). Queue up all seven albums in sequence, then read the rest of this referenced article. What else are you doing this morning?