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Franks Wild Years

Tom Waits

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Album Review

Tom Waits wrote a song called "Frank's Wild Years" for his 1983 Swordfishtrombones album, then used the title (minus its apostrophe) for a musical play he wrote with his wife, Kathleen Brennan, and toured with in 1986. The Franks Wild Years album, drawn from the show, is subtitled, "un operachi romantico in two acts," though the songs themselves do not carry the plot. Rather, this is just the third installment in Waits' eccentric series of Island Records albums in which he seems most inspired by German art song and carnival music, presenting songs in spare, stripped-down arrangements consisting of instruments like marimba, baritone horn, and pump organ and singing in a strained voice that has been artificially compressed and distorted. The songs themselves often are conventional romantic vignettes, or would be minus the oddities of instrumentation, arrangement, and performance. For example, "Innocent When You Dream," a song of disappointment in love and friendship, has a winning melody, but it is played in a seesaw arrangement of pump organ, bass, violin, and piano, and Waits sings it like an enraged drunk. (He points out the arbitrary nature of the arrangements by repeating "Straight to the Top," done as a demented rhumba in act one, as a Vegas-style Frank Sinatra swing tune in act two.) The result on record may not be theatrical, exactly, but it certainly is affected. It also has the quality of an inside joke that listeners are not being let in on.

Customer Reviews

2nd listen winner

This was the first time I listened to Tom Waits and it just amazed me. I had never heard anything like it before and to be honest I wasn't sure if I would ever play it again. On second play I was hooked ! For me its best sat in a comfy armchair, beer in hand, eyes closed and letting the sounds wash over me. Perfect.

Amazing songs

This is absolute perfection.

Oddball mayhem

Wonderful crazy stories set to pretzel melodies. The best.

Biography

Born: 07 December 1949 in Pomona, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

In the 1970s, Tom Waits combined a lyrical focus on desperate, low-life characters with a persona that seemed to embody the same lifestyle, which he sang about in a raspy, gravelly voice. From the '80s on, his work became increasingly theatrical as he moved into acting and composing. Growing up in Southern California, Waits attracted the attention of manager Herb Cohen, who also handled Frank Zappa, and was signed by him at the beginning of the 1970s, resulting in the material later released as The...
Full bio

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