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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.
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on 24 November 2006
The scale of this album is pretty intimidating. I wasn't sure when I bought this whether someone even of the calibre of Tom Waits could pull off a triple album and make it consistently good throughout. Has he managed it? Yes...with flying colours. 'Orphans' is a masterpiece. I have just about everything the man has ever recorded and this stands alongside his best ('Rain Dogs, 'Swordfishtrombones', 'Closing Time' if you want my opinion).

Orphans is divided into three CDs, each of which could have been released on its own as a perfectly good album. What Tom Waits has done though is ensure that fans of ALL aspects of his music go home happy. This is important when you remember that there is and never has been anyone to match Waits' musical versatility (Neil Young comes about the closest). So CD1 is Waits in rock music mode, CD2 is Waits the balladeer and CD3 is everything else. Its pointless listing the songs that are good here, there are just too many to mention. Instead it's best to look at the the three faces of the album.

CD1 (Brawlers) starts off with Waits doing an old fashioned rock 'n' roll/rockabilly number, "Lie To Me" - I must admit this isn't exactly a musical style that I'm into big time but nevertheless it is rather good. The highlight of 'Brawlers' for me though is 'Road To Peace', a Tom Waits commentary on the lunacy of the Middle East. This is as close to politics that Tom Waits is ever likely to get.

CD2 (Bawlers) is, I must admit, my favourite part of the album. Tom Waits for me has always been at his best when singing ballads. These bear comparison with anything he has performed before. Standout tracks are "Widow's Grove" (one of his best ever) and "It's Over" while the mad tango of "Little Drop Of Poison" could have come straight out of 'Rain Dogs'.

CD3 (Bastards) is Waits doing his experimental bit. In the press I read a review suggesting that this was purely for Waits diehards. I don't agree. There really is some excellent and tuneful (if that's the right word when talking about Tom Waits) stuff here. "Two Sisters" is superb as is "Home I'll Never Be". You also get several tracks of Waits' storytelling. For those who haven't heard him before, nobody tells a story like Waits. From the mad entomological listing of "Army Ants" to the untitled story at the end about the woman in the supermarket it's all here.

Fantastic stuff. Waits as ever glories in his stories of the American dark underbelly. Characters appear in these songs that have no place anywhere else. This really is the sound of 3 a.m. after a heavy night in a backstreet bar. Beautiful stuff, buy it!
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on 1 January 2007
I have been a fan of Tom Waits since 1973 when 'Closing Time' was released. I have just about everything he has released since then and I have had the privilege of twice seeing him perform live.

Like all great songwriters with extensive back catalogues, there has been the occasional blip but overall the quality has remained high and 'Orphans' has raised the bar even higher by being an absolute classic.

Brilliant songs and musings to make you laugh, cry and rock. And all beautifully presented in a quality package.

If you are not yet into Tom Waits then I recommend that you listen to this album and discover a genius.
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on 21 December 2006
I have had the privelige of listening to Tom Waits for the last 20 years and can't comprehend how he continues to manage to produce music of this quality. The icons of music of the last 3 or 4 decades can not, in my opinion, come close to him.

Those of us who have become engaged with him will love this album and those who are not will become so should they opt to get this album. What amazes me is that this feels like a great place to start exploring the man and his music but I have felt like that about virtually all of his work. I hope that all enjoy this as much as I do.
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Defines another template a wold away from pop ideology churning out pre composed memories for 16-21 year olds. Flat packed ready to erect set of pre fabricated memories.

Tom is a grizzled veteran by popular standards, grown older like fine wine, vintage cars and blues musicians, s he has aged he has experimented, unafraid to range across the prairie of musical souls to appropriate all manner of sounds. This is his musical lexicon. The subtle genius of the artist as he filters a surreal vision of America through a particular template. Combining sharp incisive perception of the bizzare, mixed with a well of empathy he straddles genres as a proclaimed master of dissonance.

This sees him grafting European avant garde Brecht/Weill, folk tunes and instrumentation to American sensibilities and earthiness. He brings Vegas show tunes to the ear stripped of kitsch.

The album is stripped into three, each promises a glimpse of thigh to provide a different form of solace. The cracked baritone ranges across Americana capturing in rasped throated cadences soul poetry of the dispossessed. Few performers can evoke the Bukowski worlds of the outsider. Picking up country and skinning the twee sacharine rinsed peroxide and beating it into molten shapes to represent the wind swept flatlands of middle America whilst still evoking the dark nights of inner city. Tom also conjures the satyrs of lust and the angels of romance.

For those accustomed to harmonised sugar you will need to do a humpty dumpty to connect the bitter sweet tales of loss and love that fill the boots on these CD's. Love stories, sea shanties, rock and rollers, blues, polkas and street songs all composed without the modern aids of synthetics.

A form of organic soul based on the lurch of whisky hitting the back of the throat, memories surfacing on drowning seas in maudlin tales. Songs of Celine, Bukowski, Fante, Algren filmed by Jodorowsky then set to music.

If the modern world make you uneasy, creating a gnaw in the stomach, Tom provides a snakebite antidote to the high sugar diet.
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on 6 January 2009
If you only ever buy one Tom Waits album, this is the one to get. This covers everything from his ballady mewslings to his full on rock outporings via his expermintal weirdness. There is something for everyone here.

And therein lies the rub. With such a large mixture of styles there's bound to be something that doesn't appeal to a particular individual. For me, the middle album - Bawlers - is the weakest. On his albums the ballads get mixed up with the rest of the stuff in much smaller quantities so they act as a balance to the other work. When you collect them together all in one place like this they start to sound awful samey. For me they don't have the variety of the rock songs or the experimental stuff. That's a purely personal view and I'm sure there are people out there who will say this is the strongest disk.

Having said that, there are many highlights, even on the (to me) weak middle disk. "Road to Peace" will raise the hairs on the back of your neck; the tango beat of "Little Drop of Posion" is very infectious; "Children's Story" is sad, funny and sick all at the same time; "Nirvana" makes you want to go searching for the restaurant in the song.

This is Tom Waits condensed onto three bits of plastic, fag in mouth, glass of whiskey at hand. Pass the bottle...
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on 12 October 2011
not sure how to review this, as i would give it 5 stars for the sheer breadth of material on here, and yet i'd give it 3 stars because i find, divvied up into the three types of songs, that listening to it in order is strangely dull. the beauty of a tom waits album is that it changes your mood constantly; you'll have the most tender ballad you've ever heard, where you're on the verge of tears, and all of a sudden you're stomping along to some bloodcurdling blues yelling, and then it's time for a marimba solo. you never get to coast, you never know what's coming next. here, you do, because all the ballads are on one cd, all the stompers are on another, and the whole thing is basically what's happened, you're looking through a massive catalogue of waits stuff, you're not listening to an album. i wish this had been ordered differently, or something. i don't know what i wish, but i've jumped the rating up from 3 to 4 stars, because there's such good stuff on here. i just don't know why i find it more difficult than most waits albums to wade through
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on 21 November 2006
although tom is as near to perfection in my mind's hearing, his obsession with lofi and soundscapes over his last few albums to the detriment of songs left me hankering for older material amd worried that i would never hear the high points of swordfishtrombone, nighthawks etc. The previews of orphans intrigued me and so a few hrs after purchasing i have left the beatles love album in its sleeve and descended into wait's madness, rose to the celestial heights of his joyous songs and wept for some of his most heart wrenching ballads. Tom has completely dragged me back to his beautiful chaotic world. This is an astonishing collection with so much to savour. My only minor criticism is i actually would prefer the 3 "themed" CDs to be mixed about. Buy it, wear it, love it. TW is so back!!
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on 22 November 2006
Well, this was totally worth the wait (no pun intented). The promos online were but a tantalising teaser for an awsome main release.

This is Tom Waits at his most accessible since Mule Variations but that doesn't mean he's lost any of his edgy genius.

Being a blues nut "Brawlers" is definitely my favourite of the three discs but "Bawlers" is Tom at his most refined and even "Bastards" isn't nearly as weird as say "Bone Machine", though the mix on this final disc is sheer mad brilliance.

Best tracks for me:

All of 'em - haha! Still standouts from one listen through are:

Brawlers - 'Lucinda' and 'Walk Away' (though I agree with all comments about the class of 'Road To Peace')

Bawlers - 'Long Way Home' (which I first heard Norah Jones do) and 'Little Drop Of Poison'

Bastards - 'Heigh Ho', 'Army Ants' and 'Spidey's Wild Ride'

There are 2 extra tracks on the end of my copy of Bastards. Dunno if they'll be on every copy?

The book style packaging is very cool but the only thing stopping this album getting 5 stars is the CD sleeves. Sleeves are a pain and scratch friendly at the best of times. Tight sleeves are even worse :O. I've already put the precious discs into separate cases even though I'll probably not listen to them much now it's on my iPod.

A minor quibble about the masterpiece of the 00's though.
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on 4 February 2007
Here Tom Waits has the audacity to
attempt to better Bob Dylan's Modern
Times as Album of The Year 2006.
- and he's darned near succeeded.
Listen to it sober and it's brilliant
listen to it drunk and it's sublime.
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