Rain Dogs (studio album) by Tom Waits
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Rain Dogs is ranked as the best album by Tom Waits.
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|Rating||Date updated||Member||Album ratings||Avg. album rating|
|3 days ago||JPin8497||355||76/100|
|5 days ago||kriss2012||111||68/100|
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This album is rated in the top 1% of all albums on BestEverAlbums.com. This album has a Bayesian average rating of 84.3/100, a mean average of 82.5/100, and a trimmed mean (excluding outliers) of 84.4/100. The standard deviation for this album is 17.2.
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Odd and eerie. This album contains sounds you'll have never heard. But deep down can find some wonderful melodies.
A tough listen but I don't think I have ever found an album as rewarding as this one when you give yourself time to be able to adapt to Waits harsh musical landscape. He really does create a whole world in just 53 minutes and if you will allow him to he will drag you down to the dark alleys of a street and experience things you never have with music ever before. The imagery he can conjure up with his words are nothing short of phenomenal, making this one of the best lyrical albums I have ever heard. The environment and atmosphere that he engulfs you in is brilliant as well as you feel trapped in darkness and feel like there is no escape. He creates tension beautifully and has me on the edge of my seat every time I hear this record. Then there is the vocal, which seems like one of the most divisive things about this record and I can't lie when I first heard it many years ago I absolutely hated it. That rough, raw and gravelly sound was just too much for my young unexperienced ears but now many years down the line after several listens I am in love with it. It fits the style of music perfectly and there is no better tone to discuss the points he is talking about than the one he is using. That is because he sounds experienced and like he has done all the things or seen all the things he speaks about so we can buy into him more and he becomes more trustworthy. The vocal is just brilliant in my opinion and he makes me believe every word he says. Finally, there is the music itself which is a concoction of such a diverse array of instrumentation that you need countless listens to find them all. All of them are played phenomenally and they are used extremely effectively. None of them overpower each other and every instrument has its time to shine. Some of the instrumental highlights for me are saxophone, piano, organ, trombone, bass and double bass and all of the percussion. They all build up to create this fantastic soundscape which is so rich and full of content that you could explore it for days. The musical layering we get is just genius as well and keeps the music fresh for even experienced listeners. Overall, this is a musical masterpiece that I marvel at every time I listen to it and I am so glad I gave it my time and patience because it really deserves every single bit of praise that it receives.
Let me make this perfectly clear: I don't like Tom Waits. I don't like his voice, I don't like his arrangements, I don't like what Mark Ribot wants his guitar to sound like, I'm less impressed with his poesy than most... You're almost as likely to catch me listening to Starland Vocal Band as Waits.
Except for this.
This is one of the 200 greatest albums, threatening to break into the top 100. Can't really explain it and won't try. I'll just blame Keith Richards and move on.
But "9th and Hennepin" has one of my favorite images ever, the woman with "that razor sadness that just gets worse."
The road where Waits went with this album is not what I want to go. A way too alienating music for my uneasy palate. Not bad but a revisit is not certain
Rock music, in all its forms, is as much about feeling as it is about talent. Maybe more so. Is Tom Waits a great singer? Not even close.
But can he put you directly in a time and place that you didn’t even know you wanted to visit? You’d better believe it, Bubba.
I’d usually complain about a 19 song record, but this trip to a seedy underbelly of the city is just long enough.
This just hit me…remember the character Ooga Booga from The Nightmare Before Christmas? This record is like that character come to life. Fantastic.
I'm going to live on this hill alone, I think, but this is a top 10 all time album for me. There are no misses. Musically, it's weird but it's Waits at his best.
Wonderfully weird. Also, I was surprised to realize that much of this album takes place in the Midwest.
This is my first time listening to Tom Waits and this album. I really enjoyed the first song, but the novelty of his voice and the act that he’s doing faded quickly after the second song. The vocals could be mixed a little better to not be so irritating. The music and the writing is good but the vocal performance is like a painfully worse version of Randy Newman
For years, Tom Waits constructed a visage of a midnight, woebegone crooner slouched over a piano which supported a glass of hard liquor home to a school of swirling cigarette ash. For years, that character would morph and contort into something less and less conventional until the 1980's ushered in a Waits completely detached from society who resembled a vagabond guttersnipe that embraced a new sonic identity. Hobo Waits would first surface in earnest on 1983's Swordfishtrombones, a record characterized by unorthodox percussion motifs, reminiscent of a subterranean city of banished circus mutants planning their ascent. Still, on that LP, he embodied the role of a freak show ringmaster parading his ostracized compatriots through the streets. On Rain Dogs, Waits' ninth full-length release, he more closely examines the lives of the disenfranchised, alleyway dreamers who live in sky-blackening squalor. The album approaches this as a purveying construct rather than a single track one-off that Waits commonly flirted with earlier in his career. However, instead of employing the prior method of getting shit-faced in downtown L.A. while mining for narrative inspiration from Skid Row's finest, Waits decided to put himself in their shoes on Rain Dogs. The music produced seems decidedly out of place when set against the backdrop of a 1980's music landscape dominated by new wave and synth pop tunes. Waits rarely gets enough credit when discussing music's most triumphant reinventionists, but the man who claimed to be born in a taxi cab was guilty of metamorphizing more than once in his checkered career. Rain Dogs just happens to be his finest reawakening.
The record begins with "Singapore" which functions as a gothic sea shanty of sorts (if you can imagine such a thing). Similar to the opening track of Swordfishtrombones, "Singapore" shines light on a theatrically-rendered sub-culture with a ragtag group of sailors as his subject. Waits declares, "The captain is a one-armed dwarf, he's throwing dice along the wharf; In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king." The track chugs at a steady pace, lead by trumpet and junkyard percussion and invites the listener into the world of Rain Dogs. Second track, Clap Hands, continues the trend of unorthodox percussion, employing the marimba as the spine of the song. The piece is centered around a grotesque locomotive trip through the Big Apple with Waits himself attaching backstories to fellow passengers to pass the time. "Cemetery Polka" arrives third and it features a bizarre roll call of the most aberrant family members one could have. At this family reunion, accordion and farfisa organ take center stage. Waits describes, "Uncle Bill will never leave a will, and the tumor is as big as an egg; He has a mistress, she's Puerto Rican and I heard she has a wooden leg." On "Jockey Full of Bourbon", he recants a tale of a drunken, fragmented evening with the help of conga drums and a baritone sax. Waits invokes the spirit of his idol Jack Kerouac here with his prose, "Schiffer broke a bottle on Morgan's head and I've been stepping on the devil's tail; Across the stripes of a full moon's head, through the bars of a Cuban jail." Waits' lyricism displays shades of influence from Bob Dylan to Allen Ginsberg while effortlessly being raw, idiosyncratic and indigenous. Fifth track, "Tango Till They're Sore" is a waltzy, crooked ballad seemingly played by the town drunk on a 300 year old grand piano. The track is seemingly the last will and wishes of a destitute, easily visualized on the curb near a dive bar as light from the nearest window backlights him for his small gathering of similars. Waits promises, "I'll tell you all my secrets, but I lie about my past; Send me off to bed forevermore." It's a proposition that receives further treatment later in the LP.
"Big Black Mariah" showcases a howling Waits describing this Mariah as a black hearse coming for New Orleans' recently deceased. The song includes an appearance from Keith Richards on guitar which is a match made in heaven with Waits' one of a kind vocal delivery. Waits concludes, "He's got a wooden coat, this boy is never coming home." Eighth track, "Hang Down Your Head", is far more digestible than previous entries. Waits recruits a softer touch in the solemn, reflective track. The cut is vaguely Springsteenian, if the boss had swallowed glass while smoking a cigar.. The end result is something profoundly earnest and devoid of any decoration, strengthening the pathos within. Speaking of pathos, Waits doubles down on ninth track "Time", an understated guitar stroll evocative of his 1970's output. Here, Waits isn't trying to rekindle a former love. He knows he's incapable of it and urges his paramour to move on. It's symbolic of Waits giving himself to abstraction and leaving the world of lounges and muses behind. The title track introduces itself with wheezing accordion and chronicles a man who champions his position on the outskirts of society. These Rain Dogs are a proud bunch that shoo away taxis in favor of walking through torrential downpour and dance all night long, free of societal restraints and commitments. It's also a track that doubles as a rallying cry for Earth's outcasts during Waits' live sets. The LP winds down with one of its most enduring cuts. "Downtown Train" was made famous by Rod Stewart's rendition, but it's Waits' original that retains the piece's soul and depth. Waits pens a siren song for a nameless beloved as he rides a New York City train in the hopes that she will be amongst those in attendance. He questions if he himself would be good enough for his soulmate and how she'll be illuminated amongst all the "Brooklyn girls looking to break out of their little worlds". Waits' delivery here is so remarkably passionate and vulnerable that it provides lucidity to his character's eternal strife. The record culminates with the hyper-appropriate "Anywhere I Lay My Head", a jubilant, triumphant funeral march celebrating the life and times of defiant transient. Sonically, it wouldn't be out of place at Mardi Gras, with brass tones sending the narrator off into the great beyond. He declares, "I don't need anybody because I learned, I learned to be alone and I say anywhere, anywhere, anywhere I lay my head, boys; I will call my home." It's a glowing, stirring epitaph that symbolizes America's homeless and calls upon to the listener to undergo a paradigm shift. A miraculous end to a poignant record.
Waits' prophetic prose on Rain Dogs would be distinctly pertinent both within the walls of a philosophy classroom and sketched onto the stall of a subway toiletry. Few men can walk such a thin line and Waits' approach to this principle was never more dynamic than on Rain Dogs. His provocative commentary and crystal clear imagery are bolstered even further by the daring sonic experimentation that helped define the album. In a few short years, Waits graduated from barfly, lonesome anthems to concept albums about hobo culture and sideshow empowerment. Only Tom himself could make the transition between these two abstracts an unbridled success. Even with the runaway acclaim garnered with Rain Dogs and subsequent albums, Waits has rarely seen consistent recognition as one of history's finest songsmiths and innovators. However, to those who know his work well, it never fails to shine as brightly as a silver dollar intertwined amongst the discarded waste of a city's populace. His underground appeal is his lifeblood and Rain Dogs is his inspirational tale to endlessly entertain an audience of three that feels like three-hundred huddled around a barrel of fire to escape old man winter's scorn.
"Well it's 9th and Hennepin
And all the donuts have names that sound like prostitutes
And the moon's teeth marks are on the sky
Like a tarp thrown all over this
And the broken umbrellas like dead birds
And the steam comes out of the grill
Like the whole goddamned town is ready to blow"
-9th & Hennepin
1. Anywhere I Lay My Head
2. Tango Till They're Sore
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