Nite Life Midnight Album Feature – Orphans


This week’s “Midnight Album Feature” focuses on the bourbon-soaked vocals of the great Tom Waits and his three-disc collection from 2006, “Orphans.” Each disc has a theme and the theme on the first one, “Brawlers,” is bluesy and has a barroom kind of thing going; “Bawlers” has Celtic and country ballads and a dark side to it as well as some lullabies and waltzes; and “Bastards” is more experimental. I’m going to focus on one song from each disc. “Puttin’ on the Dog,” from the first disc, has a little bit of Waits’ sense of humor to it, it’s a great Friday night tune.

This three-disc collection of 54 songs, including 30 new songs, was written and co-produced with Tom’s wife and longtime collaborator Kathleen Brennan. Tom Waits started out in the early 70s at the Troubadour in L.A. where he created a gritty, somewhat drunken nightclub character. He combined songs with monologues that were comic, poetic and allegorical. He was 21 years old when he signed his first record deal with Asylum and released his first album “Closing Time” in 1973. Here’s a video to show you what Tom’s like live. He’s a true original.

The song “A Little Drop of Poison,” from the “Bawlers” disc, like many of the songs on this collection, was originally put out on a soundtrack. It was originally put out on “The End of Violence” and then I guess he also put it out on the “Shrek” soundtrack. The song “On the Road,” from the experimental third disc, “Bastards,” is adapted from Jack Kerouac.

Tom Waits was one of the first alternative artists I heard when I moved away from Pennsylvania and to U.C. Berkeley. I was sitting with a new friend in his car and he played a tape (I guess this dates me, huh). On one side he had Tom Waits’ “Swordfishtrombones” and on the other side he had Howlin’ Wolf, the great blues artist. If you listen to Tom Waits’ sound, he definitely could have gotten his gritty deep voice thing from the great blues player. Howlin’ Wolf was one of the first blues players to go electric and he had his own gritty style. He always picked really fun lyrics, kind of like Tom Waits does, barroom type lyrics. I finally copied the tape, and I had it all through school. My friend Tim who would visit from his job in Haiti in the Peace Corps would sit with me to listen to it over and over again. During that time, Tim taught me something really important, that you should never do something that’s not worthy of you. I’ve always tried to live that way since he taught me that and I want to send thanks out to him. Tom Waits always reminds me of my friend Tim, and that it’s important to stay on track.

Friday, July 6, 2007 (LISTEN TO THIS FEATURE)

Be sure to catch Nite Life with DJ Michele Myers every Friday Night at 9 p.m. This week’s focus is on British trip hop group Morcheeba and their cinematic 1996 release Who Can You Trust.

The Midnight Album Feature is produced by Janet Cavallo and Michele Myers.

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