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Old 04-27-2022, 09:16 PM   #51 (permalink)
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I've long known who Tom Waits was. I don't know if I've ever heard any of his songs.
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Old 04-27-2022, 09:16 PM   #52 (permalink)
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It's nice to know I have lots more listening to do.
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Old 05-11-2022, 07:23 PM   #53 (permalink)
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We near the end of what he himself might call an "inebriated stroll through the metropolitan area" of Waits's work (though I swear I haven't touch a drop since about 1987!) with only two albums to go, but as I intimated at the end of the previous review, in typical Waits style the man goes all out with his, so far, penultimate offering, and it's bloody gigantic. In 2006, Waits got together all the unreleased songs, pieces of music, ideas and demos he had recorded over the years and put them all together on what would become a three-disc collection. In an attempt to not just throw everything there in no order, he arranged them into three distinct groups, which he called individually, “Brawlers”, “Bawlers” and “Bastards” and released the entire thing under that title.

Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards - 2006

Here's what Waits has to say about the collection: ”A lot of songs that fell behind the stove while making dinner, about 60 tunes that we collected. Some are from films, some from compilations. Some is stuff that didn't fit on a record, things I recorded in the garage with kids. Oddball things, orphaned tunes. It was just a big pile of songs. It's like having a whole lot of footage for a film. It needs to be arranged in a meaningful way so it will be a balanced listening experience. You have this big box with all these things in it and it doesn't really have any meaning until it's sequenced. It took some doing. There's a thematic divide, and also pacing and all that. There are different sources to all these songs and they were written at different times. Making them work together is the trick.”

The first disc (“Brawlers”) is rooted more in his work on albums such as Heartattack and Vine, Rain Dogs and Blue Valentine: stuff more rock and blues-based, while the second, “Bawlers” is the ballads with the third being experimental and spoken word material that comes under the heading of “Bastards”. All in all there are a massive fifty-two tracks, so you'll understand if I skim though them here. I'll do my best to point out and focus on the better ones, but many will be just a line or a few words.

Disc One: “Brawlers”

“Lie to Me” is an untempo barebones rocker which has elements of Swordfishtrombones and Franks Wild Years about it, pretty manic with an almost indecipherable lyric, and it's pretty guitar driven, followed by “Lowdown”, which reminds me of Bowie meets ZZ with its hard-edged rock feel. The next one is called “2:19” yet runs for over five minutes, and has some cool harmonica and interesting percussion. Oh, I see: 2:19 is the train time. Fair enough. Reminds me a little of “Filipino Box Spring Hog” off Mule Variations. “Fish in the Jailhouse” rocks along well, kind of reminds me a little of “A Sweet Little Bullet from a Pretty Blue Gun”, while “Bottom of the World” is country-infused acoustic with a real hobo idea to it, “Lucinda” has a much more Bone Machine mechanical feel about it with somehow a feeling of an old folk ballad, and then we get one of very few covers, as he takes on Leadbelly's “Ain't Going Down to the Well”, followed by the traditional tune “Lord I've Been Changed”, with of course a heavy gospel influence.

“Puttin' on the Dog” is a blues-infused harmonica-driven mid-pacer, but highlight of at least this disc, if not the whole album, is “Road to Peace”, where Waits spits out his anger and frustration at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, his voice sad and bitter against a swinging blues beat as he sings ”The last thing he said was/ God is great and God is good/ Then he blew them all/ To Kingdom Come.” At seven minutes plus it's a longer song than we're used to getting from Waits, and the most scathing of the US Administration as he growls ”Bush is afraid to risk his future/ In the fear of his political failures/ So he plays chess at his desk / And poses for the press/ Ten thousand miles from/ The road to peace.” One of his most telling lines in the song is ”If God is great and God is good/ Why can't he change the hearts of men?” Why, indeed?

“All the Time” goes back to the grindy vocal with a hint of mechanisation in it that we hear on Bone Machine, then he hits up The Ramones for “The Return of Jackie and Judy” before skipping along without a care in “Walk Away” and then another cover in Phil Philips's “Sea of Love”. Two tracks then complete this disc, the first being “Buzz Fledderjohn”, a slow folk acoustic (with added dog!) and the closer allowing Waits to work with his longtime friend who is mentioned a lot all through his earlier albums, Chuck E. Weiss, as “Rains on Me” takes us one third of the way through this collection with a gospel-infused folk ballad.

Disc two: “Bawlers”

A short, sort of lullaby-like tune, “Bend Down the Branches” opens the second disc, followed by “You can never hold back spring”, like something off Closing Time, with piano and trumpet driving the tune. “Long Way Home” has a very downbeat Country feel to it, with violin holding court on “Widow's Grove”. Everyone probably knows “Little Drop of Poison”, since it featured in Shrek II, and “Shiny Things” slips along on a nice banjo rhythm with I think clarinet. There's a return then to the opening of One from the Heart for “The World Keeps Turning”, slow measured piano ballad with a gentle (for Waits) vocal, a Country waltz for “Tell it to Me”, even some steel guitar in there to add to the Country flavour, while “Never Let Go” sways along nicely on a piano line somewhat reminiscent of “Innocent When You Dream” in places.

“Fannin Street” has the low-key melancholy of “Time”, with something of the Irish traditional song “From Clare to Here” about it too, while I hear snatches of “Soldier's Things” in the sprinkly piano that drives “Little Man”, though in fairness it's a far different song, just the initial feel I get from it. Jazzy piano and smoky sax run “It's Over”, one of the most downbeat ballads here, again reminding me of material from One from the Heart, particularly “Old Boyfriends”, “The Wages of Love” and “Picking Up After You”. It's no surprise that “If I Have to Go” sounds very Franks Wild Years, as it was originally in the play but never made it onto the album, which is a pity as it's a really nice soft piano ballad. Another of Leadbelly's next in “Goodnight Irene”. I don't know the original so can't say how well he covers the song but I like this crazy, drunken rendition a lot.

An acoustic, mournful ballad, “The Fall of Troy” is a fine example of Waits's flair for storytelling in a song, though it ends too abruptly, while funeral jazz mixes with slow gospel for “Take Care of All My Children” and a slow hobo ballad follows in the shape of “Down There By the Train”. One original song remains on this disc then, sandwiched in between two covers, the first being a return to The Ramones for “Danny Says”, nice slow acoustic, very simple, then the last of his own songs is “Jayne's Blue Wish”, and the classic “Young at Heart” wraps up the second disc, rather appropriately, given that Waits never seems to show his age (he was sixty-seven at the time this was released, so eighty-three now) and it also features some of that whistling I've missed so much.

Disc three: “Bastards”

This is the one that features mostly experimental music, more in the vein of recent albums as well as some spoken-word pieces. It opens on “What Keeps Mankind Alive”, with a very carnival Franks Wild Years/Black Rider feel, staccato accordion and organ in a kind of slow tango rhythm with some nice mandolin too. It's followed by the bleak “Children's Story”, which I do not recommend as a bedtime tale for kids, and that's followed by the weirdest version of “Heigh Ho” you have ever heard! Yeah, the one from Snow White! Another spoken one is “Army Ants”, where Waits informs us about the insects as if he were narrating a National Geographic special or something, then a cover of Skip Spence's “Book of Moses” before he scat-sings his way through “Bone Chain”, and then tackles the traditional song “Two Sisters” almost acapella with only a fiddle for accompaniment. A mix of Franks Wild Years and Heartattack and Vine for “First Kiss”, touch of “Goin' Out West” on “Dog Door”, and then four short songs one after the other.

First up is “Redrum”, which is just ... weird. Like some mad feedback over some guitar chords and maybe organ? Possibly meant to convey the feeling of the word it spells backwards? Short though and it leads into “Nirvana”, a spoken-word effort using the words of Bukowski against accordion and then it's Jack Kerouac who provides the lyrical content of “Home I'll Never Be” on solo piano, until Waits teams up with William J. Kennedy for “Poor Little Lamb” with a very Franks Wild Years feel. “Altar Boy” looks back to Small Change and songs like “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart”, then he talks about his cars in “The Pontiac”, no instrumentation at all, then more scat singing and boombox for “Spidey's Wild Ride”.

That brings us almost to the end, as he wraps up with a cover of Daniel Johnston's “King Kong” before finally paying one more tribute to Kerouac on, what else, “On the Road”. And that's it. A staggering fifty-two songs later, one for every week in the year, we've come to the end of this amazing compilation, and indeed almost the end of the discography of Tom Waits. So far.

TRACK LISTING

Disc one: “Brawlers”

1. Lie to Me
2. Lowdown
3. 2:19
4. Fish in the Jailhouse
5. Bottom of the World
6. Lucinda
7. Ain't Going Down to the Well
8. Lord I've Been Changed
9. Puttin' on the Dog
10. Road to Peace
11. All the Time
12. The Return of Jackie and Judy
13. Walk Away
14. Sea of Love
15. Buzz Fledderjohn
16. Rains on Me

Disc two: “Bawlers”

1. Bend Down the Branches
2. You Can Never Hold Back Spring
3. Long Way Home
4. Widow's Grove
5. Little Drop of Poison
6. Shiny Things
7. World Keeps Turning
8. Tell it to Me
9. Never Let Go
10. Fannin Street
11. Little Man
12. It's Over
13. If I Have to Go
14. Goodnight Irene
15. The Fall of Troy
16. Take Care of All My Children
17. Down There By the Train
18. Danny Says
19. Jayne's Blue Wish
20. Young at Heart

Disc three: “Bastards”

1. What Keeps Mankind Alive?
2. Children's Story
3. Heigh Ho
4. Army Ants
5. Book of Moses
6. Bone Chain
7. Two Sisters
8. First Kiss
9. Dog Door
10. Redrum
11. Nirvana
12. Home I'll Never Be
13. Poor Little Lamb
14. Altar Boy
15. The Pontiac
16. Spidey's Wild Ride
17. King Kong
18. On the Road

It would be dishonest of me to say I loved, or even liked, every track on this album - there are some that are just too odd for me and some I simply don't like - but given that there are so many tracks on it I find I like more than I don't, which is really a feat in itself. Somewhat like the two Early Years compilations of the 90s, this triple boxset gives a real insight into the sort of music Waits had been writing since about 1985 (the start point given for the songs here) and now, and shows that, far from my fear that he may have taken a divergent path to the one I've been used to seeing him follow and changing his musical direction entirely, he can still write songs that make me laugh, cry and think, and as long as he can do that, I guess I'll always be a fan.

Rating: 9.1/10
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