- Insanely good Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish; we rarely have these on the site!
- Both sides here are incredible — big, rich, full-bodied and super spacious with tons of energy and presence
- “…the dominant sounds on the record were low-pitched horns, bass instruments, and percussion, set in spare, close-miked arrangements…”
- 5 stars: “Swordfishtrombones marked an evolution of which Waits had not seemed capable”
This is yet another wonderful sounding Tom Waits recording, though it’s very different from the earlier titles from his catalog that have been featured on our site before. While we’re huge fans of the sound Waits and engineer Bones Howe put together on albums like Small Change and Heartattack and Vine, this album marked a turning point for Waits and the sound of his albums.
Swordfishtrombones has none of the strings and much less of the piano work that Waits’ previous albums had employed; instead, the dominant sounds on the record were low-pitched horns, bass instruments, and percussion, set in spare, close-miked arrangements (most of them by Waits) that sometimes were better described as “soundscapes.”
When you get a top pressing like this one, you can really appreciate the sound that Waits was going for here, and it’s exceptional. When we reach for a Tom Waits record, we’re looking for something that’s different and capable of really setting a mood, and let me tell you, this record passed those tests with flying colors.
Compared to the typical pressing, this copy is bigger, richer and fuller with more weight down low. It gives you wonderful immediacy and real punch. The vocals have real texture and character — why even bother with this record if smearing or veiling is going to rob Tom Waits of his iconic voice?
What We Listen For on Swordfishtrombones
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Dave The Butcher
16 Shells From A Thirty-Ought-Six
Town With No Cheer
In The Neighborhood
Just Another Sucker On The Vine
Frank’s Wild Years
Down, Down, Down
Gin Soaked Boy
Between the release of Heartattack and Vine in 1980 and Swordfishtrombones in 1983, Tom Waits got rid of his manager, his producer, and his record company. And he drastically altered a musical approach that had become as dependable as it was unexciting. Swordfishtrombones has none of the strings and much less of the piano work that Waits’ previous albums had employed; instead, the dominant sounds on the record were low-pitched horns, bass instruments, and percussion, set in spare, close-miked arrangements (most of them by Waits) that sometimes were better described as “soundscapes.” Lyrically, Waits’ tales of the drunken and the lovelorn have been replaced by surreal accounts of people who burned down their homes and of Australian towns bypassed by the railroad — a world (not just a neighborhood) of misfits now have his attention… Artistically, Swordfishtrombones marked an evolution of which Waits had not seemed capable (though there were hints of this sound on his last two Asylum albums), and in career terms it reinvented him.