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Friday, Dec. 8, 2006


Tom Waits "Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards"

Although his trademark raspy growl and love for schizophrenic concoctions of sound aren't for everyone, visitors to the whacked-out, downtrodden world of Tom Waits are rightfully mesmerized by its beauty and brilliance. With a persona that's equal parts grizzled farmhand, ringmaster and mad scientist, Waits has been one of the most compelling artists in modern music since debuting with 1973's "Closing Time."

"Orphans," a dazzling three-disc collection of new and rare cuts, features everything from stripped-down folk to beatboxing. The tracks are categorized into three styles: "Brawlers" boasts rambunctious barroom blues and rock standards; "Bawlers" is filled with lush waltzes soaked with two empty bourbon bottles' worth of insight and longing; Waits' more eccentric, theatrical material finds a home on "Bastards."

The wonderfully absurd "Bastards" will appeal to diehard fans the most. From the warped carnival sounds of Waits' adaptation of "What Keeps Mankind Alive" from "The Threepenny Opera" to several deadpan-humor spoken-word pieces, the record's numerous, dense twists allow ample space for Waits to push the boundaries of popular music with his distorted whispers, anguished howls and off-beat ramblings.

One of 2006's best releases, "Orphans" provides a fantastic overview of a unique musician whose creativity remarkably continues to increase with each passing year.

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