Tom Waits -- Orphans (Anti/Epitaph)

There are two immutable truths about Tom Waits. The first is that Waits is, without question or debate, one of the most singularly unique figures in contemporary music. The other is the more impor

Tom Waits — Orphans



There are two immutable truths about Tom Waits. The first is that Waits is, without question or debate, one of the most singularly unique figures in contemporary music. The other is the more important of the two, and it goes like this: Tom Waits is a mad bloody genius and anyone who doesn't get that will never be swayed by further exposure or reading glowing reviews or believing the ravings of critics who routinely include Waits' work among the best of any given year or the most important across the past three decades. And that leads us inexorably to Orphans, the latest but not necessarily the newest work from Saint Tom. A sprawling three-disc/56-song set, Orphans represents a dip into Waits' archives as he unearths some unreleased nuggets, re-records a handful of long-forgotten gems and compiles some of his voluminous one-off contributions to tributes, compilations and soundtracks. The set's three discs are separated thematically; Brawlers contains the stomping Beefheart-meets-Kerouac Blues that he has perfected over the years; Bawlers details the softer, more romantic side of Waits' creative persona; and Bastards collects the one-offs along with some of Waits' more challenging and experimental sonic musings. Proof of Waits' musical brilliance drips like bourbon honey throughout Orphans, as he deftly displays the validity and beauty that lies at the heart of even his most humble dustbin songs. For Waits fans, Orphans is an early Christmas present, but for those who don't yet attend the Church of Tom, this is probably no place to start. Seek out one of the excellent retrospectives (Used Songs is a good collection) and see if Waits' boho Jazz/Blues rings your rusty dinner bell. If he does, go forth and experience the rest. If not, don't sweat it. Tom Waits does work that satisfies himself and it either gets heard or it doesn't and he gives not a goodly damn which way it falls in the world. Dig it or don't. (Brian Baker) Grade: A

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