Will I stand here and call it brilliant? Nope. How about sitting here and calling it a "fully realized, emotionally fueled album"? Ooops, nope, sorry, not that either.
This album contains one undisputed candidate for Best Song Ever ("I Hope that I Don't Fall in Love With You"), and a whole bunch of good songs ("Ol 55" and "Martha" spring to mind, but that's just me). Oh, and at least one bad one ("Grapefruit Moon"...ok, but so much less than something special).
Likewise, Waits isn't too sure of himself here. He gets pushed around by Jerry Yester, the producer. Not that any of the songs sound bad, mind you. More that too many of them lack identity, and that Waits seems shoehorned into a folk-jazz stew not of his own making.
So why does this get the big 5 stars from me? Because here's a great example of a man overcoming the limitations placed on him. Waits's raw emotion, empathy, and understanding of his subjects shines through. He's the rare singer/songwriter who can present a negative character and make us feel for him (or her). For proof, look no further than "I Hope that I don't Fall In love" or the rollicking jazz of "Ice Cream Man."
He developed over the years into the amazing original we know today, but you know something? This is a pretty good place to start. A must for all serious Waits fans, and a "why don't you have this?" for everyone else.