Rain Dogs was a stark contrast from anything else released in 1985. Instead of synths and glossy production, Rain Dogs contains raw-sounding, unfiltered performances. In fact, Tom Waits has said in interviews that many of the sounds on this album were invented during the recording process. He famously said that if the sound of a 2 by 4 hitting a door sounded better, it was used. As a result, Rain Dogs can be a jarring listen to anyone unfamiliar with Waits and the sound he was going for at this point. It is a continuation of the sounds explored on Swordfishtrombones but, I feel that Waits mastered those sounds fully on Rain Dogs. It his his most accessible and most celebrated album. The sessions for this album began Waits’ long association with guitarist Mark Ribot, whose distinct guitar playing added to Waits’ “new” sound. Keith Richards also guests on Rain Dogs. I can’t think of a better musician to be included here. I loved every moment of this album. Yes, I know that Tom Waits’ previous sound was much more jazzy, folky and cabaret sounding. But, I love the diversity of sounds here: rock, jazz, polka, blues, r&b, New Orleans style. Anything that happened by mistake or suddenly while recording was thrown in. Waits’ singing style even differs from track to track: sounding like a pirate singing sea shanties one minute, a carnival barker the next. In fact, I kind of got that traveling medicine show vibe from this album. It seems that Tom Waits finally met his match with Rain Dogs. It has set the path on which he continues to travel on to this day. I hold him in high regard not only because he is a good songwriter but because he is willing to take risks and take his music places that we never saw coming. That is why Rain Dogs is an important part of my collection. If I were to recommend any of his releases as a starting point, Rain Dogs would be it. That way, you find out quickly just how talented and diverse Tom Waits really is. Overall, I give Rain Dogs, 9.5 out of 5.
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