Tom Waits - Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards (Cover Artwork)

Tom Waits

Tom Waits: Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & BastardsOrphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards (2006)
Anti- Records

Reviewer Rating: 4.5
User Rating:

Contributed by: TorgoTorgo
(others by this writer | submit your own)

These are a lot of songs that fell behind the stove while making dinner. Only Tom Waits would be so nonchalant about a brilliant collection of 26 rare and 30 new songs, especially when only 14 songs can be readily found on other albums. If you couldn't deduce from the title, Orphans is a three-disc.

These are a lot of songs that fell behind the stove while making dinner.
Only Tom Waits would be so nonchalant about a brilliant collection of 26 rare and 30 new songs, especially when only 14 songs can be readily found on other albums. If you couldn't deduce from the title, Orphans is a three-disc set divided neatly into three parts: Brawlers, for the rough and tumble rocking tracks; Bawlers, for the relatively more humble love songs; and Bastards, for experimental tracks that would even make some Bone Machine owners raise their eyebrows. If you think this is just an odds and sods collection I would implore you to think again, as all songs are sonically cohesive and could pass as one very long recording session, laced over with the light coat of fuzz.

Starting off Brawlers with the raging single "Lie to Me," the heavy, loud pounding of the drums become a characteristic revisited through the rest of the set. This thread isn't connected to all tracks, however. Just a few songs later, "Lucinda," the beat (the most prevalent musical presence of the song) is the sound of Tom Waits going "Aah-Boom" looped, and somehow doesn't sound like shit. Just as you sheltered, closed-minded kids start thinking "Hey, this isn't punk at all, wtf," I mention a bluesed up cover of the Ramones' classic "The Return of Jackie and Judy" (which can also be found on the tribute album We're a Happy Family) tucked neatly into the middle of Brawlers, a fun rumbler yet not as good as the original. "Road to Peace," the most weighty song on the disc, is a seven-minute anti-war romp, exposing the extremism of both sides. As a side note, it ended up in Rolling Stone's Top 10 Protest Songs of 2006, which also included NOFX's "You're Wrong" -- if that's not punk, I don't know what is. Oh wait...

Bawlers, the best disc of the set focuses on the more introspective Tom Waits, a side that fans of his first few albums will be familiar with. "You Can Never Hold Back Spring" is a beautiful song, and truly heart-wrenching with unlimited replay-ability. This should be a signature ballad of his that ends up being a live standard, though God knows he never tours. The memorable "Long Way Home" trots in after with a bassline evoking a galloping horse. Uh oh, am I losing the punx again? OK, I'll glaze over the brilliant gospel song "Take Care of All My Children" -- and "Down There by the Train," a song he wrote for Johnny Cash which paints a man's last days as good as any song can -- and mention the second Ramones cover, "Danny Says." Turning the original on its head having just a double bass and lightly finger-picked clean electric guitar, it translates the love story better than the original. A whimsical quality of the song is brought out and shows a deepness underlying Joey Ramone-penned songs.

Now we step into some murky waters. "What Keeps Mankind Alive" starts off Bastards with a singing/shouting Tom Waits backed by a dominating accordion. The rest of the disc take numerous left turns. The eccentric "Army Ants" basically consists of Tom Waits sounding like he's narrating an ant documentary with quick bass and guitar plucking eliciting thousands of ants scurrying about. Story adaptations are also included, like the rollicking "On the Road" (Jack Kerouac) or "Nirvana," just a simple retelling of the stupendous Charles Bukowski poem with a light horn in the background. The set ends with "Missing My Son." What is it? A joke. No music. Just an amusing joke told in Tom Waits' scruffy yet attractive choice.

And you know what's frightening about all this? It works. His experimentation is artfully crafted and his success-to-failure rate is alarmingly high for such a freewheeling character. Yes, it runs long and there's no chance in hell you'll listen to it in one sitting. But just sit back and ponder how someone like Tom Waits does everything that comes to mind and remains critically lauded and loses zero fans...verses someone like Bob Dylan who is deemed flawless by the media yet releases mid-tempo songs based off old blues standards that can't compare to his 1960s output (and this is coming from a Bob Dylan fan). Yet Tom Waits never tries to double back over his career, always is searching to use an instrument no one's ever heard of, and doesn't limit himself to any one genre or prose. He's a national treasure. But go listen to Left Alone, whatever. Probably just as good.


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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
taxidermy (May 14, 2009)

I kind of think of this as three seperate albums that was just sold as a collection rather than a 3-disc album. Maybe that's just because I've never listened to all 3 in a row. However you look at it, I think it's worth the price alone for the "Brawlers" disc. The other two are really good as well, I just have a soft spot for that one. Even though "Rain Dogs", which is largely considered his best work, came out over 20 years ago now I still think over all this guy just gets better and better as he gets older and crazier. He's supposedly recording now or about to start and I can't wait to hear it.

TR (April 10, 2008)

STILL the best man alive.

DrGunn (November 26, 2007)

rain dogs is generally considered his best, it's certainly my favorite and the one i started with. be prepared to spend some time with it though, i played it quite a few times before it finally clicked. my favorites and also the order you should get them:
1) rain dogs
2) bone machine
3) swordfishtrombones
4) small change
5) mule variations

brangelina (November 26, 2007)

Start with Rain Dogs.

And so is Orphans. Score is for Orphans!

TheWise (November 26, 2007)

I must say the first disc is by far the best. But it is all in all one of his best releases.

ryanonthembta (November 26, 2007)

I wanna get into Tom Waits, where should I start?

Holy_Balls (November 25, 2007)

Tom waits for the bus, only to find out he's at the wrong stop.

bytheslice (November 24, 2007)

Tom Waits is a true artist. Humble with a great sense of humor, always pushing the boundaries of his music, he is definitely one of the most "punk" artists ever. Haven't heard this set yet, but I loved "Blood Money."

TheMike (November 23, 2007)

Tom Waits sucks at not being ridiculously amazing.

joeymagnet (November 23, 2007)

Tom Waits has never done anything bad. Ever.

skolarx (November 23, 2007)

i noticed there is a nonlimited version of this out in stores now, like 20 bucks cheaper than the hardcover version. a great buy way

DrGunn (November 23, 2007)

only waits cd i don't own, because i am broke as shit. can't wait to get it thought.

i'm a little sad that this only has anti-era rarities, i want the damn annie's back in town soundtrack songs!

SumWon (November 23, 2007)

wtf, tom waits aint punx!

But seriously, score is for Shiny Things --one of my favorite songs ever.

Villan (November 23, 2007)

That Bawlers disc on its own is absolutely stunning and stayed in my CD player for months. The other stuff is merely very, very good.

Torgo (November 23, 2007)

In hindsight, this review sounds kinda harsh.

Won't think so if I get some "wtf tom waitz aint punx" comments though.

HOISTDATRAG (November 23, 2007)

Tom Waits is the punkest dude I know. for real.

GlassPipeMurder (November 23, 2007)

as good as left alone? what are you smoking torgo?

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