Tom Waits releases “Orphans” trilogy

The return of rock's greatest avant-boho

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Feted singer-songwriter Tom Waits is to release a 56-track triple album, 30 of which are brand new material.

“Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards” ingeniously captures Tom Waits’ full range as vocalist, lyricist, melodist and arranger. Each CD of the trilogy has been separately arranged by musical style.

Waits says, in an ‘artist statement’ that accompanies the discs, that he “wanted “Orphans” to be like a shortwave radio show where the past is sequenced with the future, consisting of things you find on the ground, in this world and no world, or maybe the next world.”


He goes on to say, “Gathering all this material together was like rounding up chickens at the beach. Most of it was lost or buried under the house.”

Waits took archive material and started writing over it, in response to what he heard.

“Orphans” contains individual-sounding records that fit together as a whole. “Brawlers” is a full-on riotous blues album, the highlight being “Low Down” on which his 20-year-old son Casey accompanies him on drums.


“Bawlers” is, according to Waits, a lonesome ballads record of country-style laments such as “The World Keeps Turning”

“Bastards”, the last of the set, shows the eccentric side of Waits. The record includes experiments with poetry and cover versions from diverse sources all done in typical Waits style.

He takes material from The Ramones (“The Return Of Jackie And Judy”), Daniel Johnston (“King Kong”) and Brecht & Weill (“What Keeps Mankind Alive”), as well as adaptations of Kerouac’s “Home I’ll Never Be” and “On The Road” and a poem by Charles Bukowski.

Other self-penned highlights among the three discs include the prisoner in “Fish In The Jailhouse” bragging about his ability to pick locks with a fishbone and Waits’ most political song to date, “Road To Peace”, an account of a young suicide bomber’s attack on a bus in Jerusalem.

“Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards” is released through Epitaph on November 20.


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