Tom Waits released ‘The Early Years Vol. 1’ in 1991 and ‘Vol. 2′ in 1993. The recordings of both albums were made in 1971, before Waits had released his debut album ‘Closing Time’ in 1973. Some of the tracks on these two albums did actually make it onto albums, but these early versions carry with them their own soul despite being rearranged for the future albums.
Personally, I think that Vol. 1 is one of his best records. It shows how good he was so young and if he had actually put these versions on the studio records, I feel they still would have done well. Tracks like ‘Poncho’s Lament’, ‘I’m Your Late Night Evening Prostitute’, ‘Ice Cream Man’ and ‘Midnight Lullaby’ sound so innocent and untouched. Not to say the final versions are tainted because they are still perfect, but there’s a realness to this album. It’s like a top notch b-sides record! We still get to see his songwriting abilities and because it was before he had released an album, I think it makes it all the more special. The album is still able to play through like a regular album for the most part, though at times it can be a little messey.
We also hear the little things that would be cut from the final versions of tracks but can still make the song sound special. Whether it’s Waits scratching his beard, the intro and arrangement of ‘Ice Cream Man’ or his whistling on ‘Little Trip To Heaven’, you feel a little more in touch with the songs. The production value of the album is also very good, nothing was recording or mixed too hastily and Wait’s early voice, un-rusted, is enjoyable. Whatever happened to him after I don’t know! It’s also fun, with such tracks as ‘Ice Cream Man’ and ‘Looks Like I’m Up Shit Creek Again’ bringing a laid back sound.
This is a great album to pick up if you like Tom Waits, you get an idea of what his early career and songwriting subjects were. The rough sound gives it that old feeling which is something I actually like to hear, and the older versions of tracks you might know will get you thinking. On to the next one.
Photo Credit: amazon.com