Tom Waits

Tom Waits wasn’t always the intense, even bizarre pop expressionist he’d become by the ’80s. Before the brilliant dementia of his later work, Waits was just another soft-spoken troubadour with a wicked sense of humor and a special fondness for jazz, blues, and the Beat generation. The roots of his music are revealed within the 13 tracks of The Early Years, a collection of previously unreleased 1971 demo tapes. Waits never intended these recordings for public consumption. But the wise guy pathos of “I’m Your Late Night Evening Prostitute” and the intentionally bad puns of “Had Me a Girl” hold up well as intelligent, charming, early snapshots of an important artist. – Steve Appleford