53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Tom Waits on top form again,
This review is from: Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards (Audio CD)
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!