Tom Waits : "The Heart of Saturday Night" (1974); Asylum

The Tom Waits of the early '70s was a much different animal than the howling, artier-than-thou stylist he is today. On this album, his second, he honed his jazzy, melancholy melodies and sharp Beat poetry to perfection, singing his urban fables in a whiskey-marinated voice that belied his lack of years (he was 25) but sounded a lot more natural than the self-conscious rasp he has affected to one degree or another ever since. Songs such as "Please Call Me Baby" and "San Diego Serenade" are touchingly, unashamedly sentimental in the best sense of the word, while such impressionistic narratives as "Diamonds on My Windshield" and "The Ghosts of Saturday Night" capture the rough essence of burning neon, sleazy bars and bad tattoos. Waits has released his share of eminent albums over the years, but perhaps none so mature, ingenuous and fully realized as "The Heart of Saturday Night."

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