Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards
Since his rebirth on the Anti label, Tom Waits has been pretty damn amazing. Orphans is without an ounce of doubt his finest release since Mule Variations, a varied dish that is a beautiful way to start off 2007. Three discs packed in a Cibachrome-tinted box contain 56 tracks, for the most part unreleased tunes, rounded out by work from tribute albums, soundtrack selections and a few album cuts. Brawlers is a Mule Variations-style disc of blues, soul and rock-oriented songs. Bawlers is his version of Sinatra’s In The Wee Small Hours, a record of ballads and tear-jerkers. On Bastards, Waits is in pure deconstruction mode, including six spoken word pieces reminiscent of his between-song banter in concert. The music spans 22 years, covering a wide range of styles, odd sounds that have accompanied Waits back to his days on Island Records. Aside from many brilliant Waits and Kathleen Brennan originals—including “Down There by the Train” recorded by Johnny Cash on American Recordings—the box set includes many covers and tributes. Waits is a master of interpretation and here tackles The Ramones, Daniel Johnston, Skip Spence, Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht, Leadbelly, Phil Phillips and even “Heigh Ho” from Snow White. Like other box sets, this one’s expensive, but unlike many others, Orphans is worth every cent.