Tom Waits

The Asylum Years

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The second British Tom Waits compilation was a more extensive look at the 1973-1980 Asylum Records catalog than the first, Bounced Checks from 1981 (four more tracks), but it was another idiosyncratic selection. Waits' stellar first two albums were better represented, with three strong tracks drawn from The Heart of Saturday Night and two from Closing Time, but "Ol' 55" was ignored again, and nothing was included from the third album, Nighthawks at the Diner, which is the favorite of many Waits fans. Three tracks were repeated from Bounced Checks -- "Burma Shave," "I Never Talk to Strangers," a duet with Bette Midler, and "Tom Traubert's Blues" -- and they were worthy, but where was "Jersey Girl"? The choices from the later albums were spotty: why use Waits' questionable cover of "Somewhere" from West Side Story and leave out a brilliant story-song like "Romeo Is Bleeding"? The overall unevenness of the Asylum albums cries out for a well-chosen compilation.

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