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Beautiful Maladies - The Island Years

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Album Review

Tom Waits' brilliance is messy — he has so many ideas that sometimes unrealized songs are juxtaposed with moments of greatness on his albums. That may make for the occasional uneven record, but each album has its own distinct tone that makes it a unique listening experience, whether it's a masterpiece or a missed opportunity. And that's the reason why his work, especially his sprawling Island albums, doesn't easily lend itself to retrospectives like Beautiful Maladies: The Island Years. The single disc features 22 tracks from Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs, Franks Wild Years, Big Time, Bone Machine, and The Black Rider, including such familiar and celebrated items as "Hang on St. Christopher," "Innocent When You Dream," "I Don't Wanna Grow Up," "16 Shells From a Thirty-Ought Six," and "Downtown Train." Some fans might spot missing favorites, but it's hard to fault the selections themselves. Because of this, Beautiful Maladies functions as a primer for neophytes. The collection may not give the full scope of Waits' talents, but for the curious, it works well as a sampler.


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...
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