by Tom WaitsTom Waits


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Between the release of Heartattack and Vine in 1980 and Swordfishtrombones in 1983, Tom Waits got rid of his manager, his producer, and his record company. And he drastically altered a musical approach that had become as dependable as it was unexciting. Swordfishtrombones has none of the strings and much less of the piano work that Waits' previous albums had employed; instead, the dominant sounds on the record were low-pitched horns, bass instruments, and percussion, set in spare, close-miked arrangements (most of them by Waits) that sometimes were better described as "soundscapes." Lyrically, Waits' tales of the drunken and the lovelorn have been replaced by surreal accounts of people who burned down their homes and of Australian towns bypassed by the railroad -- a world (not just a neighborhood) of misfits now have his attention. The music can be primitive, moving to odd time signatures, while Waits alternately howls and wheezes in his gravelly bass voice. He seems to have moved on from Hoagy Carmichael and Louis Armstrong to Kurt Weill and Howlin' Wolf (as impersonated by Captain Beefheart). Waits seems to have had trouble interesting a record label in the album, which was cut 13 months before it was released, but when it appeared, rock critics predictably raved: after all, it sounded weird and it didn't have a chance of selling. Actually, it did make the bottom of the best-seller charts, like most of Waits' albums, and now that he was with a label based in Europe, even charted there. Artistically, Swordfishtrombones marked an evolution of which Waits had not seemed capable (though there were hints of this sound on his last two Asylum albums), and in career terms it reinvented him.

Product Details

Release Date: 06/15/1990
Label: Island
UPC: 0042284246927
catalogNumber: 842469
Rank: 46818

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Tom Waits   Primary Artist,Synthesizer,Fiddle,Guitar,Harmonium,Hammond Organ,Vocals,Multi Instruments
Victor Feldman   Percussion,Conga,Bass Drums,Marimbas,Tambourine,Multi Instruments,Snare Drums
Pete Jolly   Piano,Accordion
Lanny Morgan   Wind
Ronnie Barron   Keyboards,Hammond Organ
Eric Bikales   Organ
Larry Taylor   Bass,Acoustic Bass
Bob Alcivar   Piano
Randall Aldcroft   Trombone,Horn,Baritone Horn,Baritone Saxophone
Dennis Budimir   Guitar
Larry Bunker   Drums
Anthony Clark   Bagpipes
Greg Cohen   Bass,Acoustic Bass
Chuck Findley   Trumpet
Richard Gibbs   Glass Harmonica
Carlos Guitarlos   Guitar,Electric Guitar
Stephen Hodges   Harmonica,Drums
Jack Sheldon   Trumpet
Gayle LaVant   Horn
John Lowe   Wind
Jeff Porcaro   Percussion
Emil Richards   Vibes
Joe Rimano   Trombone,Trumpet
Joe Romano   Trombone,Trumpet
Anthony Stewart   Bagpipes
Fred Tackett   Banjo,Guitar,Electric Guitar
Big John Thomassie   Drums
Francis Thumm   Harmonica,Glass Harmonica,Angklung
Dick Hyde   Trombone
William Frank "Bill" Reichenbach   Trombone
Thompson   Harmonica
Donald Waldrop   Tuba

Technical Credits

Tom Waits   Arranger,Composer,Producer
Biff Dawes   Engineer
Francis Thumm   Arranger
Clark Spangler   Programming
Frank Mulvey   Art Direction

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