Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Reviews:: Tom Waits Orphans

Tom Waits - usually that's all that needs to be said. I'm not going to come up anything more poetic than the words that have already been written about his music. Tom Waits is a man that consistently reinvents his sound while maintaining his style, and without question, is one of the most important and best song writers alive.

That being said, he's not the most prolific (by choice) and rarely plays shows. It's a privilege to get to see him play live, and any release is greatly anticipated by legions of faithful fans.

Somehow, in 2006, all that changed as Tom finally releases more than his fans can handle with the three disc set - Orphans - of b-sides, rarities and new/unreleased songs that span his entire career. The result is 3 hours of music that you can't honestly describe or enjoy in only one sitting. Even trying to write about it has me constantly going back and starting over. Whether you want to start with percussion heavy rock of Brawlers, or jump into the mellow, jazz feel (the crackling, lo-fi sounds of You Can't Hold Back Spring seem destined to end up as the intro to one of Madlib's productions) of Bawlers you can't help but forgetting about the best things of the other discs.

The star of the show is of course his voice. The unique tones, effects and power of this whiskey soaked, cut glass vessel is something special. To quote the man himself:
I try my best to chug, stomp, weep, whisper, moan, wheeze, scat, blurt, rage, whine, and seduce. With my voice, I can sound like a girl, the boogieman, a Theremin, a cherry bomb, a clown, a doctor, a murderer…I can be tribal. Ironic. Or disturbed. My voice is really my instrument.
He goes on to describe Orphans as what "fell behind the stove while making dinner." Sally Struthers used to say only pennies a day could feed a village for a year, and if that is true, the scraps that Tom left behind the stove can feed music fans for the upcoming Winter months.

From piano ballads, subtle jazz, gospel, rockers, honky tonk blues, to his own pseudo beat box, industrial percussion clanks, all of Tom's skills are on display here. He humors the listener with interesting covers - like the Sea of Love, as well as settling nicely into his new role as the sympathetic political spokesman - like the poignant Road to Peace.

It's interesting to see the different styles Tom's evolved over his career. Album to album his style may have evolved slowly, so much you don't even really notice until you take a step back. To picture the man he was on Closing Time and imagine him playing the songs on Real Gone, well, you'd be hard pressed to envision it. Regardless of where he started, or where he ends up (as this collection shows), the ride has been wild, heart felt, sometimes painful, but never unsatifying.

I'm sure this release will receive critical acclaim, but I wonder if people really appreciate this collection for what it is. Notoriously introverted, Waits opens up to his fans and gives us all he has. I hope people grab a hold of this gift and cherish it as more than just an blog-ad on a site, but from the general lack of interest amongst the music sites I read, I fear this gift will go largely unnoticed.

MP3:: You Can Never Hold Back Spring
MP3:: Road to Peace

Posted at 3:40 PM by ack :: 1 comments

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At 2:54 PM, Anonymous ANDRE did sayeth:

Back about eight years ago, I found an an old photo album from the 1880's, but instead of
being filled with photos, someone back then had cut out columns from some 1880's newspaper that was filled with nothing but odd facts...Cleopatra's barge weighed such and such, health tips, quotes, etc. Every line a new thing. They cut three columns to a page and filled up the album. I bought it, and a year later left it for Tom at the stage door with my name and number written inside. Two days later he called and left a message...stating he just got in, and realized what it was...then started reading from it..he liked it. He said he would call back. Well, seven years later, this spring he calls back and leaves another message..(yes, I saved both) and states that he's interested in using the albums pages as part of his booklet design for his new CD this year..leaving a phone number. Well, after trying twice to call back, I finally left a message that he had my blessing. A week before Orphans came out, I asked my local small store if they would have it the next week, and they said they already did, and I could buy it. I opened it there at the counter, and after seeing what he had done, I turned to the girl at the counter and said "My work on this planet is done."
Andre in san francisco

And what a spectacular release!...


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