Tom Waitts Where do I begin?

In NY, FUV, one of our small, cozy, radio stations has been doing a special through the day on Tom Waitt's music. I'm a believer, now. Where do I begin? Can you give me some albums to start with? thanks in advance. peace, warren
You can begin with spelling his name correctly...just one 't' in 'Waits"

I'm a big Tom Waits fan from way back. I think there is another thread on this that I contributed to....just a minute, let me check. Ah, found it. Check here

Wouldn't dare to disagree with you, Marco, since I'm not really a fan. I only have Swordfishtrombone, which I enjoy thoroughly. Maybe that's a good start?
check out

closing time
small change
blue valentine
Closing Time
The Heart of Saturday Night

I own many of his recordings and these 2 are the ones I play most often.
My favorite is "nighthawks at the diner". Check the archives.
start w/ Used Songs.

proceed at your own peril.
Been a Tom Waits fan (in the truest sense) since the beginning. Taught school w/ one of Tom's best friends and sometime collaborator, saw him in concert 1st time about 25-30 years ago and been along for the ride ever since. The albums mentioneed above are terrific, especially "Nighthawks'' which lends some great insight into his concert demeanor. I also like "Small Change and Closing Time" but the one I believe is the best is "Heartattack And Vine". The brilliant line" There ain't no devil, only God when he's drunk" stays with you forever. Seediest cover pic and graveliest voice but virtually every song is amazing. By far IMHO the peak of Tom's lyric prowess (other songs are in the realm, but I've yet to hear another album as consistenly impressive).
Rhyno wrote "proceed at your own peril". Words of wisdom indeed. There is no one else like Tom and this is not background music, this is late night (or very early morning), no lights and for some libation induced music. Welcome to the club!
How about a dumpster. That's where his stuff belongs.
Oh Uppermidfi... are you still struggling to understand those Donna Summer lyrics?
great stuff guys. I'm off to a good start. thanks again, warren
How about Holly Cole's "Temptation" album? This is a collection of Waits' songs.
Uppermidfi could possibly change his moniker to "Lowerlevelatormusic". Now back to the question: I feel that there are three periods in Wait's music, although you will not find any great line dividing them if you were to listen to all his albums in chronological order. His early work is that of the singer/songwriter with folk roots, the second is a more urban beat poet-type thing and the third, the more mature Waits with its own dark and quirky side, is the hardest for a lot of folks to appreciate. I recommend his first album if you want to hear his early stuff as a baseline of sorts; "Nighthawks at the Diner" (an early live in the studio album) is a must for his "beat poet" stuff; "Swordfishtrombone" marks the beginning of the mature and often difficult to appreciate period, so no one should judge on a first listen. More recently "Mule Variations" is a must. I guess I am a Wait's fan. Not Pablum in any way, so, I fully agree: all Donna Summer fans should look elsewhere. Interestingly, his voice has gone steadily downhill in singing terms, while gaining so much in expressiveness: just goes to show you that music and “nicey-nice” sounds are not necessarily bound to each other.
Excellent recommendation Smokester! "Temptation" is a fantastic album, both in performance and acoustics (great soundstaging on that one). John Hammond Jr.'s album "Wicked Grin" is also an excellent collection of Waits covers.

Hey Warren, nothing like a little diversity in your listening tastes Huh'? One of my favorite periods of Tom Waits is the period in which he was locked up in hotel rooms in L.A. with Ricki Lee Jones doing heroin. Approx. 1982-1988.

It's sometimes hard to understand what the hell he was saying, but some of his material was pretty intense. I can't really say there was an album from that period that I didn't like. Also, I'm with Unsound, Nighthawks At The Diner was a great release. Probably one of my favorites.

Happy Listening.
Drive right off of the tracks; Waits did the sound track to the movie "One From The Heart" with, of all people, Crystal Gayle. It all seems like it has to be crap, but the whole mess is truly sublime and must have for Waits completists.
Mule Variations is very good if you can get past all the effects and odd sounds (to add texture?) he uses.

Great post, Pbb.

A lot of good recommendations here. I am partial to Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs, and Heart Attack and Vine, although I never met a Waits album I didn't like. Also, check out his performance on Sparklehorse's last album, "It's a Wonderful Life," certainly worth owning for its own sake.
Another great album of Waits covers is Wicked Grin by John Hammond. And it is produced by Tom Waits too.
Ed, I ordered the Cincotta cd you've been raving 'bout. Should have in a few days. will let you know. warren
swordfish trombones?
It's amazing that the list got as long as it did before someone mentioned "Rain Dogs." The song "Jockey Full Of Burbon" has one of the few perfect (for the song) guitar solos ever recorded.
Except for the one "Burp", this group of Tom Waits fans deserve a round of applause for their suggestions. It just goes to show what a great artist he is. Very few other artists provide such diversity album to album and have so many people think each one is some of the best music Tom has done. Hurray for Mr. Waits all of us who enjoy the quality of his music.
Yeah, I too was curious why Rain Dogs didn't get more of a mention. I'm no where near an authority, but isn't Rain Dogs usually considered his "best" record by "critics?" But what do these so called "critics" know anyway?

How do you like my over use of "quotes?" At least I'm not SHOUTING.
Nicko - I can't remember who said it, though I'm sure it wasn't Waits....I think maybe it was Gary Null....."....critics and lawyers are just two steps beneath snail dung...." Now I'll probably get my ass flamed by all the lawyers and critics on this list. Ouch!

I do enjoy Rain Dogs too. Try my very best not to use the word "best" for exactly the reasons you question critics....hey, what the f%*k do I know?! I just like his music. He's the BEST you know. You can quote me on that. Just don't shout quite so loud, I can't hear my music when your making your point like that, and no one's listening anyway.

Thanks for the great post. I'm not familiar with Tom Waits but will be ordering "Heartattacks and Vine" based on one of the posts. Joel
You should probably check out some of the movies that Tom has been in also. Check this link at the Internet Movie Data Base:
I seem to remember that he was a hoot in 'Mystery Men', and I just watched 'The Fisher King' again the other night; I realized that I hadn't recognized him the first time I saw the movie many years ago. He has a good part in there as a disabled veteran at the train station, talking to the Jeff Bridges character. Great movie.
OK guys. Started with Rain Dogs and Mule Variations. On Rain Dogs, particularly, his voice ( coming from a telephone receiver??) was a little hard, at first, but, man, can he write a song. Mule Variations is great! After a few more listens, I'll know if I'm ready for more. Think so. Thanks for the tips. peace, warren
Hey Warren-

If you like his lyrics, but the voice doesn't grab you, don't forget to try the cover albums mentioned in the thread, of which there are several excellent ones.

Holly Cole's "Temptation" and John Hammond's "Wicked Grin" are both outstanding. Waits without as much gristle and half the calories!

Marco, Got Temptation. Certainly loved his music, but Holly Cole's voice is hard to take for too long. Now, if Eva Cassidy were alive. Could listen to her for hours. I'm a man. I think I can take Waits straight. I'll see if I can handle it. Thinks it may happen.
I'm with you there on Eva, Warren! That woman could make The Back Street Boys sound listenable (ugh, what a thought though)! I do like Cole however and the recording's pretty darn good too with some great soundstaging. But definitely go for the gusto dude. The real thing builds character, and helps build strong bones in eight essential ways! I salute your manliness my friend! A toast to all things masculine! I'll drop my drawers today and look down and be reminded of you and of Tom Waits as I gaze upon my own manhood. You can take it Warren, I know you can. Just edge that volume up just a nudge each time you listen. Oh yeah, now we're talking. Eastwood and Hackman would be proud dude.

does anyone know the album Tom did with Philip Glass?
I've heard of it but had no luck tracking it down. Would love a copy