Rain Dogs (1985)
By 1983’ s Sword fish trombones, the hepcat crooning of his early years was gone, usurped by a more experimental, percussive sound cemented here by the arrival of guitarist Marc Ribot. His lurching, Latin-infused staccato can be heard on tracks like Jockey Full Of Bourbon and C lap Hands, with Waits memorably directing his band to ‘play it like a midget’s bar mitzvah’. The presence of Stones majordomo Keith Richards offers a counterpoint to the weirdness, adding a waft of mainstream convention to country rocker Blind Love and the rakish R&B of Big Black Mariah. Despite the inclusion of Downtown Train (destined to become an AOR mega-hit for Rod Stewart), this is dense, unconventional rock ’n’ roll at its most essential.
Recommended track: Jockey Full Of Bourbon