Top positive review
136 of 144 people found this helpful
Worth waiting for
on 6 November 2006
Three discs, fifty-four songs, thirty new and previously unheard recordings sounds like pretty standard fare for an artist box set, and yet, Orphans has as much in common with a simple career retrospective as Tom Waits does with the average singer songwriter.
The three discs are divided by genre: Brawlers is chock full of raucous blues and full-throated juke-joint stomps, Bawlers contains a selection of Celtic and country ballads, waltzes, lullabies, piano, and classic lyrical Waits' songs, while Bastards is filled with experimental music, stories and jokes.
The first disc, Brawlers, sees Waits channel The Rolling Stones, Captain Beefheart, Muddy Waters and T-Rex. The first of the new songs, LowDown, is in pure garage rock mode, with his 20-year-old son, Casey, on drums and San Francisco's blues icon, Ron Hacker, on guitar. A cover of The Ramones's The Return Of Jackie And Judy rubs shoulders with more traditional numbers like Bottom Of The World and Rains On Me.
Stealing the show, however, is Road To Peace, Waits's staggering condemnation of the Bush government and a companion piece to Day After Tomorrow from his previous album, Real Gone. It is, without question, one of the finest anti war songs ever penned.
The lonesome ballads and tender songs of innocence and hope on Bawlers come in sharp contrast to the other two discs and showcase Waits at his most romantic. The plaintive laments of Tell It To Me and Fannin Street meld poignantly with saloon songs of betrayal and despair like The World Keeps Turning. The bitter cabaret of Little Drop Of Poison (originally from the soundtrack to End Of Violence and, later, Shrek 2) explores what the heart gives and what it takes away.
It's the indefinable diversions into Waits's experimental side that are the hallmark of Bastards. The disturbing bedtime fable that is Children's Story, precedes a maniacal version of Heigh Ho, from Disney's Snow White & The Seven Dwarves and a cackling take on Daniel Johnston's King Kong. The poignant reminiscence of car ownership on The Pontiac and the spoken word Army Ants ensures that Bastards is anything but predictable.
Ever the stylistic nomad, Waits takes on the roles of inventive vocalist, literary lyricist, barking preacher, rabid poet, romantic melodist, innovative arranger and pioneer of sonic worlds as he scats, wheezes, blurts, rages, weeps, whispers and chugs through the three discs. Orphans will move the heart, shake the body and expand the soul.