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Tom Waits Audio CD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 8.04 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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Frequently Bought Together

Swordfishtrombones + Rain Dogs + Mule Variations
Price For All Three: CDN$ 31.03

  • Rain Dogs CDN$ 7.94
  • Mule Variations CDN$ 15.05

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Product Details

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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
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing and Uncompromizing June 11 2004
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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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3.0 out of 5 stars BLUESY TALES OF LOSERS 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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4.0 out of 5 stars Waits enters a new realm Oct. 26 2002
Format:Audio CD
After spending the first decade of his career partially in the realm of normalcy, 1983's Swordfishtrombones, features think-throated singer/songwriter, Tom Waits, engineering a style that has to be experienced to be believed. Acid rock-ish twinkling, vaporous blues riffs, Captain Beefheart-style wackiness and sounds that could have only come from a minstrel show from Mars all mix with Mr. Waits' abrasive grunts and brutal growls for an entirely unadulterated and truly distinctive disc. His expanded sense of musical experimentation does not hinder Mr. Waits' ability to write solid songs (One could argue that it strengthens it). Swordfishtrombones contains some of his best-written tunes such as the bluesy rollicker, "Down Down Down," the wry monologue, "Frank's Wild Years," the somber, grumbling "Town With No Cheer" and its flipside, the sumptuous tribute to small-time life, "In the Neighborhood," all of which are as vividly worded song-poems as one could ask. Swordfishtrombones is undoubtedly one of the definitive Tom Waits albums.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Cool New Waits April 11 2002
Format:Audio CD
While there were hints of an experimental Tom Waits on "Blue Valentine," this was the first album where I found myself thinking that I was listening to a totally reinvented Tom Waits.
Nearly twenty years later, I still feel "hot & cold" when I listen to this release. I think the lyrical Waits reaches incredible new heights with tunes like "Frank's Wild Years" and "In the Neighborhood." Musically, the album lost me at times. There are brief pieces like "Johnsburg, Illinois," a haunting romantic bit with a ghostly chill to it, where Waits' new musical paint job works well. But much of the album drags with what sounds to me like too much experiment, too little music.
If you're one of those Tom Waits fans who likes both his pre and post 1970s sound, and want to grab one CD that captures both sides of Tom Waits, I would pass on Sworfishtrombones. His follow up, "Rain Dogs," captures the essence of all Tom Waits; eery artsy tunes with enough melody to still be music.
If it's vintage Tom Waits lyrics you're fishing for, Swordfishtrombones is well worth a listen. The music, to my ears, tends to drag. While I'm not close-minded to offbeat and experimental art, I'm not a passionate fan. Take this into account: if you are a bit more open-minded than I am, this CD might be just the pick for you!
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Raps, recitals and melancholy moods
Swordfishtrombones is a collection of raps & recitals, bluesy & jazzy excursions, diner torch songs and instrumentals with spare backing plus one lavishly backed melodious ballad... Read more
Published on Aug. 10 2009 by Pieter Uys
5.0 out of 5 stars The latest artist I am proud to find out about.
Every time I get to in a stop in music ( When I think there is nothing left to discover except for overatted artists like Dylan), I find someone else. Read more
Published on Feb. 17 2004 by Anapanasati
5.0 out of 5 stars Great stuff
This is the album that really marked Tom Waits' transformation from boozy bar crooner to inspired composer of twisted arrangements. Read more
Published on July 9 2003 by David Bonesteel
5.0 out of 5 stars stunning
i may be a die-hard metalhead who gets his kicks out of bands like Bloodbath and Cryptopsy, but there is no way i can deny the genious of tom waits. Read more
Published on Feb. 19 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars HITTING HIS STRIDE
Tom Waits output from the seventies was very good. His Beat influenced barfly personna playing a blues/jazz/Tin Pan Alley hybrid made him a unique artist. Read more
Published on Sept. 12 2002 by S. Finefrock
4.0 out of 5 stars Waits's Best Album
To say that the music of Tom Waits is an acquired taste is an understatement. His combination of spacey jazz, blues, spoken word poetry and down-and-out lyrics are combined with... Read more
Published on Aug. 17 2002 by Brian D. Rubendall
4.0 out of 5 stars sonic carnival
This is where the sonic carnival really started. It's true that Blue Valentine hints that something funny was in the air but on Swordfishtrombones, Waits really decided to take... Read more
Published on April 24 2002 by "doneill70"
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius
Few artists ever seek to completely re-invent themselves on record, and fewer still make the transformation as completely successfully as did Tom Waits. Read more
Published on March 9 2002 by Bill R. Moore
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