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Swordfish Trombone

4.6 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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58th Annual GRAMMY Awards
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (Nov. 30 1995)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Universal Music Canada
  • ASIN: B000001FTJ
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Audio Cassette  |  LP Record
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #16,097 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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1. Underground
2. Shore Leave
3. Dave The Butcher
4. Johnsburg, Illinois
5. 16 Shells From A Thirty-Ought Six
6. Town With No Cheer
7. In The Neighborhood
8. Just Another Sucker On The Vine
9. Frank's Wild Years
10. Swordfishtrombone
11. Down, Down, Down
12. Soldier's Things
13. Gin Soaked Boy
14. Trouble's Braids
15. Rainbirds

Product Description


The first album of the loose trilogy that also includes Rain Dogs and Franks Wild Years, Swordfishtrombones marked a radical departure for Waits, whose avant-garde ambitions became plain not so much in his lyrics or subject matter--the songs here deal, as do his older albums, with hard life on the wrong side of the tracks and dreams of escape and transcendence--but in the music, a sound somewhere between German cabaret music from between the wars and contemporary Manhattan rush hour. Odd time signatures, unusual instrumentation (glass harmonicas and brake drums, among others), and Waits's barked vocals make this one of his most individualistic and challenging albums. --Daniel Durchholz

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
By the early 1980's, Tom Waits had perfected his style. His beatnik-barroom persona was clearly defined, his throaty voice familiar to a very dependable, if not especially large, fan base. This is the point at which most popular musicians reach an apex, enter "legendary" status, and release a string of albums that often simply pastiche their earlier successes. But Tom Waits is not an ordinary "popular musician."
Consequently, he re-invented himself in 1983 with Swordfishtrombones. Choosing to jettison his record label and produce the new album himself, he also left behind the combination of strings and piano that had backed so many of his previous songs, replacing them with scratchy electric guitars (often plucked), bizarre organs, glass harmonicas, and most of all, a huge variety of drums. The result is a CD full of arresting soundscapes in which his voice, always distinctive, becomes an instrument in its own right.
The lyrics are different also. Though he is still most certainly singing about life's unfortunates, the typical references to hookers, bars, and closing time are replaced with mystifying, often nightmareish story-lyrics in which the listener more often gets the gist, rather than the details, of the circumstances described. Though "Frank's Wild Years" is a spoken song and might at first seem similar to the spoken-word masterpieces of, say, Nighthawks at the Diner, this song is not about your typical drunkard but rather a psychopath who, unable to stand his suburban existance, burns down his house and drives away laughing.
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Format: Audio CD
I have arrived at Tom Waites at the age of 52, and find myself wondering why the hell I never discovered his music before. This is not for the timid, it's a mixture of primal and raw music. It
is jarring, discordant, grainy and addicting. There is more than a hint of Kurt Weill to the whole album, and the ensuing mixture strikes a chord that sets my own soul buzzing with sympathetic vibrations. I think you have to have a dark and twisted streak to appreciate this album. You have to know the taste of too many cigarettes, the pounding of Scotch induced hangovers, and the scent of cheap perfume on a cold, empty pillow. I love it..................
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By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on Aug. 10 2009
Format: LP Record
Swordfishtrombones is a collection of raps & recitals, bluesy & jazzy excursions, diner torch songs and instrumentals with spare backing plus one lavishly backed melodious ballad in the style of Jersey Girl on Heartattack and Vine. Underground is a brooding recital while 16 Shells From A 30-6 is a type of emphatic spoken blues in a voice more gravelly than normal. Examples of other talking styles include Frank's Wild Years where Hammond organ and acoustic bass provide edgy backing; the percussive title track where the vocal hovers between talking & singing, and the jittery Trouble's Braids on which Waits's semi-whispered vocal is backed by African talking & Parade bass drums plus acoustic bass.

He sings on the boisterous Down Down Down with its jazzy texture and on atmospheric art songs like the lament Town With No Cheer, the short love song Johnsburg, Illinois and the moving Soldier's Things, tender moments that interrupt the rough pieces and jazz raps. Of the instrumentals, the gentle Rainbirds brings to mind Leonard Cohen's Tacoma Trailer on The Future. For those who prefer their Waits in more traditional style there's the magnificent ballad In The Neighborhood, reminiscent of his early 1970s masterpieces like Ole 55 and I Hope that I Don't Fall in Love with You.
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By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on Jan. 7 2004
Format: Audio CD
For someone who prefers Waits' singing voice on those big tuneful ballads, this album is a bit of a shock. In The Neighbourhood, although a spectacular example of aforementioned style, is the only representative on Swordfishtrombones. With its beautiful melody line and gripping chorus, it ranks with other Wait greats like Old 55, Saving All My Love For You and I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You.
The rest of the album is an exploration of his talking vocal style, with jazzy or bluesy arrangements providing the backdrop to his Beat poetry. Of the three instrumentals, I prefer Just Another Sucker On The Vine with its lovely interplay between harmonium and trumpet. The gentle Soldier's Things and Town With No Cheer are also lovely ballads, but with a lounge jazz feel.
Many of the songs have a theme of travelling and being out of place and out of time. Swordfishtrombones is certainly a very accomplished album on which Waits honed many of his inimitable styles, but besides Neighborhood I do not find many of the songs personally appealing, thence the three stars. For those of his fans that like his rasping voice and spoken style, this is a five star album.
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