Given pop music's typical career arc from visionary burst to mainstream fizzle, perhaps the rarest of creatures is an artist who over the years evolves into a place far more remote and extreme than where he started. After a decade as a lounge pianist, Tom Waits reinvented himself as an avant-garde showman rooted in Brecht/Weill opera and Captain Beefheart.
"Beautiful Maladies" documents the wondrous music Waits created after signing to Island Records in 1983. The collection draws from Waits' '80s albums -- "Swordfishtrombones," "Raindogs" and "Frank's Wild Years" -- with more recent soundtracks, theatrical scores and infrequent studio work filling in the remainder.
While it is easy to wholeheartedly recommend this music, the album's only shortcoming is that it cannot include everything Waits produced during these years. Do yourself an even greater favor by going back and collecting the individual albums.