The Early Years, Vol. 1 is an album of early demos recorded by a 21-year-old Tom Waits in 1971, two years before the release of his first album, Closing Time, and issued on the record label owned by his ex-manager. Waits accompanies himself on piano or guitar and sings in an unaffected nasal tenor. (One track, "Ice Cream Man," is given a full-band treatment.) Several of these songs, notably "Ice Cream Man," "Virginia Ave.," "Midnight Lullabye," and "Little Trip to Heaven," turned up on his later albums, but the overall level of writing and performance is well below Waits' usual standard. Clearly, his better early material was chosen for his Asylum albums. Hardcore fans will want to hear this album, of course, but others need not bother.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann