Tom Waits, Rain Dogs...


I'm embarrassed to say I just heard Tom Waits's Rain Dogs for the first time and I am blown away. It's an album Bruce Springsteen wishes he could make. The sound is just incredible and the arrangements are prefect. Tom makes it all sound so easy where Bruce makes it sound so hard.Bruce has yet to make an album with such an inspired performance and overall great sound quality as this one.
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If bruce is the brawn, tom is the cerebral.
The problem I have with Tom is he keeps making the same album over and over.
I have to disagree there Casey33.. IMO he's one of the best songwriters out there. I can't think of any 2 songs alike He's pretty unique in his arrangements and songwriting style.
I'm embarrassed to say I don't understand the motive behind the original post. I think that Wait's (studio recorded) 'Rain Dogs' stands on its own as does perhaps Springsteen's (4-track recorded) 'Nebraska'.

Some Wikipedia trivia:

"In 1989, Nebraska was ranked #43 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s. In 2003, the album was ranked number 224 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time."

"In 1989, it (Rain Dogs) was ranked #21 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s. In 2003, the album was ranked number 397 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time."

I don't know.
The problem I have with Tom is he keeps making the same album over and over.

WHAT?!?! Compare "The Heart of Saturday Night" with "Small Change" with "Swordfishtrombone" with "Mule Variations" or "Bone Machine" or more recently, "Blood Money". There have been some phases he's gone through where several albums may have similarities, but if you look at the broader picture of his entire career he has evolved and changed. Waits is an absolutely brilliant songwriter and performer...entirely unique. I could not disagree more with the opinion that all his work sounds the same.

I would never have drawn any similarities between him and Springsteen either. Waits uses a different vocabulary both verbal and musical, speaks of different worlds, and is far more unique and creative than Springsteen (IMHO of course).

Rain Dogs is a great album. I think that's one of the early albums when he first started collaborating with his wife, Kathleen Brennan (I think he went over to Island Records at that time). If you like Rain Dogs and have not heard Swordfishtrombone definitely check that one out as well. There's also a collective CD of his "Island Years" that you may enjoy.

still trying to figure out how waits and springteen are being compared....john fogerty wishes he could make a record as gladys knight who wishes she could make a record like radiohead.
My initial reaction was "if you like Rain Dogs, pick up Swordfishtrombone."
The similarities between the two artist mentioned is quite obvious, too me anyway. Haven't you guys heard Springsteen's rendition of Tom Wait's "Jersey Girl"? Beside the strong vocal comparison theres alot to be said for a shared mutual respect they seem to share. Listen to Rain Dogs and if you don't hear the Springsteen influences in the some of the electric guitar songs then your not really listening. A few of the arrangements on Rain Dogs have the "Wild Billy's Circus" vibe going on.Both men are great story tellers. I love Springsteen and that is why I bring this topic up, if you haven't yet heard Rain Dogs you should, it put a smile on my face.
Jaybo, is there no end to your ignorance? Once again I know I hit the nail on the head when I find your disagreeing response to my many posts.
there is no end to my ignorance...it just keeps getting better with age. pick up elliott murphy's 'aquashow' and 'lost generation' for more springsteen comparisons....biff rose for tom waits.
i think tom waits is a great, great songwriter.
one of my all time faves. nuff said
Jaybo, thanks for the recommendations.
Orlando, once again, I am at least two steps behind you.
Happy to have just found a vinyl copy of Rain Dogs.

For me, the differences and points of comparison between Waits & Springsteen both make sense.

You're both right.

Want something good to argue about, check out Rolling Stone's new "top 100 singers" list! Cheers,
Spencer
The similarities between the two artist mentioned is quite obvious, too me anyway. Haven't you guys heard Springsteen's rendition of Tom Wait's "Jersey Girl"? Beside the strong vocal comparison theres alot to be said for a shared mutual respect they seem to share. Listen to Rain Dogs and if you don't hear the Springsteen influences in the some of the electric guitar songs then your not really listening.

There are numerous great covers of Waits' songs (tops on my list would be Holly Cole's Temptation and John Hammond's Wicked Grin). I have heard Springsteen's Jersey Girl and it didn't strike me that the vocals were similar, though I certainly enjoyed it - great tune! Tom's voice has the gravely rough edges of too much whiskey and cigarettes at an early age. Springsteen is far smoother in comparison. I haven't listened to enough Springsteen to comment on the influences in the electric guitar you mention, or in any strong similarities that I picked up on. Yes, they are both story tellers , and they both seem to be telling stories about American characters (so I see your point there), but I feel Waits characters to be worlds away from Springsteen's. Waits is telling stories about folks in the darkest corners of the places most of us would prefer to avoid. He uses a vocabulary that is entirely foreign to Springsteen's lyrics and the musical tapestry he orchestrates his songs with are as complex and as rich as the tales he spins, drawing from perhaps upon more esoteric and diverse influences than I've ever heard from Springsteen. Springsteen's lyrics strike me as being more ballads for the common man, draped in an American flag and hinting at that glimmer of hope amidst the darkness of struggle, opression and despair. With Waits there is more often only darkness, depravity, as the down-and-out continue their downward spiral, or delight in their twisted ways. There is no hope, no American flags being proudly waved, no happy endings or dreams fulfilled. Just read the lyrics for any song on Rain Dogs which you enjoyed, and show me a Springsteen story that resembles any of them. If there is one I need to listen to more Springsteen (and again, I admit, I have not heard much - I may have owned three albums of his at one time or another and he never caught on).
Jax2, thanks for your insight. Nicely put.

Marco,
That's an excellent overview, I'd say. If you want to try some Springsteen that's a little closer to the darkness and depravity in Waits' music, give a listen to "Nebraska." It also is much starker musically, and closer to Waits in this way--which is not to say that it really SOUNDS like a Waits' album at all. It's just closer than any other I can think of....
Hey Walter - thanks for that. Nebraska was one of three Springsteen albums I used to have, and it was the one I liked the best of the three. The other two were, "Born in the USA" and "The Wild and the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle". I lost them all when I sold all my vinyl :-( Given the thread (thanks Dreadhead) I'll have to give "Nebraska" another listen.

I can't really think of anyone who actually reminds me of Waits because he's so unique. There's certainly artists who sound as if they have similar influences, but they are few and far between, and a far cry from combining all of the unique talents Waits demonstrates. Some who come to mind Jeremy Wallace whose voice strikes of a younger Waits (check out his version of St. James Infirmary on "My Lucky Day"), and Damien Jurado's very dark CD "Where Shall you Take Me" (the cut "Amateur Night" reminds me very much of Waits' songs, "What's He Building in There" and "Frank's Wild Years", though Jurado does not use the kaleidiscopic tapestry of noises and atmospheric sounds that Waits likes to weave, nor does it have the wicked humor that is such a trademark of Waits tunes. Waits is such a craftsman with words...you get the sense that he really loves "words"...like some 'collector' might. Waits has me smiling frequently...just like the most appropriate title of John Hammond's cover album, "Wicked Grin". His humor is as sharp as a straight razor.


Yeah, I agree that Waits really is one of a kind. My first experience with his work was hearing "Heart Attack and Vine" in college. It blew me away, and I've been a big fan ever since. "Swordfishtrombones" is my personal favorite, although there are lots of great ones to choose among. The lyrics really are just about perfect, but I also do love those "kaleidoscopic" soundscapes you mentioned. Have you heard the two Latin Playboys albums? The band is a kind of side project for members of Los Lobos, and they get that same kind of vibe, at least in terms of the sound. Much different from anything Los Lobos has done, even their more experimental records, like Colossal Head and Kiko.

Thanks for your suggestions! I will track them down.
I find this thread interesting because my first reaction was similar to Marco's. Upon further consideration, as Springsteen's music has gotten darker over the years, I can see where it's starting to approach Waits' sandbox(at least lyrically). In that way, they are plying the same territory. Musically, IMHO, the best you can say is that both are rooted in the blues which occassionally allows for some overlap.

To me, the biggest difference is that Springsteen is literal (both musically and lyrically) where Waits is more fantasical (word advisedly chosen to reference the literary genre). Waits' musical style abstracts traditional rock vocabularly while Sprinsteen's celebrates it. Waits' lyrical style takes dark tales of America toward the surreal, rather than Sprinsteen's real.

I'll take Waits, but I'll also take TC Boyle over Richard Russo - not necessarily the first alternatives you might pair, but not unlike the one posed by this thread and, IMHO, not unreasonable. My taste runs toward the more obviously "imaginative" take on certain common themes, but I also understand why some folks would go the other way.

Marty
Try "mule." Even better than "rain."
Try "mule." Even better than "rain."

I love all Waits stuff, but I would say that Mule Variations, Bone Machine, and his more recent stuff are perhaps less "accessible" to your average listener than Rain Dogs, and even more so than his earlier stuff like "Small Change" and "Blue Valentine". Not to discourage anyone from getting it, but it is a further and further distanced from anything from Springsteen that I've ever heard. I doubt you will ever hear Springsteen covering "Filipino Box Spring Hog" anytime soon :-) I find myself listening to his Island Records releases most of all. I have to be in the right mood for the more recent stuff like "Alice" and "Blood Money", though I do love both. They have sharper teeth and can be more jarring in that way. Really easy to listen to are the earlier stuff I mentioned above, but those do not have the textural complexities of soundscape that he started to really start to develop later on. The best-of CD I was thinking of from the Island years is titled Beautiful Maladies.