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Tom Waits, ‘Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards’ (Anti-)

While Tom Waits’ nearly 35-year career can’t be segmented neatly (he’s just too damned unpredictable), it does have a few distinct stages. On Orphans, the gravelly troubadour constructs a three-CD, 54-song safehouse for wayward material both new and old, documenting his move — aesthetically, if not always chronologically — from skid-row bluesman (Brawlers) to lyrical balladeer (Bawlers) to scrap-heap experimentalist (Bastards). Though the set’s marathon length may keep casual listeners at a distance, fans of the eccentric characters, styles, and emotional arcs that compose Waits’ oeuvre know there’s no such thing as a “casual” Tom Waits listener anyway.

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