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Swordfish Trombone

4.6 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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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: #13,519 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

Product Description

Japanese-only SHM-CD (Super High Material CD) paper sleeve pressing of this 1983 album. SHM-CDs can be played on any audio player and delivers unbelievably high-quality sound. You won't believe it's the same CD! Universal. 2008.


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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Format: Audio CD
Few artists ever seek to completely re-invent themselves on record, and fewer still make the transformation as completely successfully as did Tom Waits. His 70's albums are revered for their delicate, string-landen piano work with Waits croaking out lyrical strands of barstool philosophizing in a pseudo-Louis Armstrong growl. These albums are good, strong efforts, but they had become somewhat predictable by the time of 1980's Heart Attack & Vine (although that album, and it's predecessor, Blue Valentine, had started to introduce new elements into Waits's music.) Swordfishtrombones, then, was a complete re-invention. Out go the strings and piano work (almost entirely in the case of the former, much less overt in the case of the latter), out go to late night bar-obsessed Beat poetry of the lyrics, out goes the Louis Armstrong growl. This album, instead, featured light, sparse, percussion-driven arrangements, with chugging basslines and occasional freakish burts of kaleidoscopic guitar. Lyrically, it was still drenched in weirdness, but moreso than ever - Waits's tales range from the insane poetry that would come to dominate his next album, Rain Dogs (Underground, Shore Leave), to his other typical 80's style song that he still leans on heavily in concert when he plays (16 Shells, Down, Down, Down), to the outright bizzarre and hilarous (Frank's Wild Years, In The Neighborhood.) We also see his vocals take on a more Howlin' Wolf-esque leaning - one critic described the album as sounding like "The Three Penny Opera as sung by Howlin' Wolf." Although this was the prototype for all the rest of his albums since it, it can be a bit hard to get used to (not that all of his albums aren't), if you are used to his earlier efforts. But, like any great album, it takes some time to grow on you.Read more ›
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