Friday, July 10, 2009

Rain Dogs

Rain Dogs
Tom Waits

With its jarring rhythms and unusual instrumentation — marimba, accordion, various percussion — as well as its frequently surreal lyrics, Rain Dogs is very much a follow-up to Swordfishtrombones, which is to say that it sounds for the most part like The Threepenny Opera being sung by Howlin' Wolf. The chief musical difference is the introduction of guitarist Marc Ribot, who adds his noisy leads to the general cacophony. But Rain Dogs is sprawling where its predecessor had been focused: Tom Waits' lyrics here sometimes are imaginative to the point of obscurity, seemingly chosen to fit the rhythms rather than for sense. In the course of 19 tracks and 54 minutes, Waits sometimes goes back to the more conventional music of his earlier records, which seems like a retreat, though such tracks as the catchy "Hang Down Your Head," "Time," and especially "Downtown Train" (frequently covered and finally turned into a Top Ten hit by Rod Stewart five years later) provide some relief as well as variety. Rain Dogs can't surprise as Swordfishtrombones had, and in his attempt to continue in the direction suggested by that album, Waits occasionally borders on the chaotic (which may only be to say that, like most of his records, this one is uneven). But much of the music matches the earlier album, and there is so much of it that that is enough to qualify Rain Dogs as one of Waits' better albums.

1 Singapore Waits 2:46
2 Clap Hands Waits 3:47
3 Cemetery Polka Waits 1:51
4 Jockey Full of Bourbon Waits 2:45
5 Tango Till They're Sore Waits 2:49
6 Big Black Mariah Waits 2:44
7 Diamonds & Gold Waits 2:31
8 Hang Down Your Head Brennan, Waits 2:32
9 Time Waits 3:55
10 Rain Dogs Waits 2:56
11 Midtown [instrumental] Waits 1:00
12 9th & Hennepin Waits 1:58
13 Gun Street Girl Waits 4:37
14 Union Square Waits 2:24
15 Blind Love Waits 4:18
16 Walking Spanish Waits 3:05
17 Downtown Train Waits 3:53
18 Bride of Rain Dog [instrumental] Waits 1:07
19 Anywhere I Lay My Head Waits 2:48

Michael Blair Percussion, Drums, Marimba
Ralph Carney Sax (Bass), Wind
Crispin Cioe Saxophone
Greg Cohen Bass, Double Bass
Mickey Curry Drums
Bob Funk Trombone
Tony Garnier Bass, Double Bass
Arno Hecht Horn (Tenor), Saxophone
Stephen Hodges Drums
Robbie Kilgore Organ
Tony Levin Bass
Ross Levinson Violin
Hollywood Paul Litteral Trumpet
John Lune Saxophone
John Lurie Sax (Alto)
Robert Musso Banjo, Engineer
Bobby Previte Percussion, Marimba
Robert Quine Guitar
Marc Ribot Guitar
Keith Richards Guitar, Vocals (bckgr)
William Shimmel Accordion
G.E. Smith Guitar
Chris Spedding Guitar
Larry Taylor Bass, Double Bass
Uptown Horns Group
Tom Waits Guitar, Composer, Harmonium, Vocals, Producer
Howie Weinberg Mastering

1 comment:

marram62 said...

The middle album of the trilogy that includes Swordfishtrombones and Franks Wild Years, Rain Dogs is Waits's best overall effort. The songs are first-rate, and there are a lot of them--19 in all, ranging from grim nightlife memoirs ("9th and Hennepin," "Singapore") to portraits of small-time hustlers ("Gun Street Girl," "Union Square") to bursts of street-corner philosophy ("Blind Love," "Time"). The album also contains the original version of "Downtown Train," which Rod Stewart turned into a smash hit. The image of "rain dogs"--animals who've lost their way home because the rain has washed away their scent--is an appropriate symbol for the entire cast of characters Waits has brought to life over the years, and this album has thus far proved to be his most enduring effort. --Daniel Durchholz