Recorded in '71, this is the real Tom Waits, letting you hear where he came from and where he was headed. At this point, everyone knows Waits is a songwriting genius. This album is proof that he was that from the beginning, but maybe it's too subtle for some people to catch because there's more real life and fewer freaks, pharaohs, and demons.
The growling vocals of the 2nd half of Waits' career conjure up agony, whiskey, and psychosis in a way that no one else can. It's easy to understand why people are drawn to it. The Early Years 2 is as mellow as that later stuff is intense, and with it you get Tom actually singing in his real, natural voice. The only other musician that gives you such amazing songwriting combined with acoustic guitar on the same albums is Dylan. They're both on a short list of my favorite musical geniuses so I won't get into that comparison other than to say that I've never met Zimmy's mom, but I'm guessing even she'd tell you that Waits is the better singer.
The bottom line is, this is essential Tom Waits. With 7 of these tracks, you're getting slightly rougher versions of songs available on his first 2 albums. It's interesting to compare them to the later versions and hear the effects of production and of a young artists' development. The 6 songs that you can't get elsewhere are the polar opposite of his future howling madman persona - a folk singer singing calmly yet powerfully about things everyone can relate to.
As long as you don't have a hang up about Waits having to sound like the Swordfish Trombones to Mule Variations era, I think you'll find this to be money well spent.