Universal acclaim - based on 32 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 32 out of 32
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 32
  3. Negative: 0 out of 32
  1. A colourful, incomparable colossus, a work of breathtaking, staggering genius and no mistake.
  2. 100
    Astounding... More even than his Exile On Main St., this is Tom Waits' Basement Tapes. [Dec 2006, p.104]
  3. 100
    It's remarkable... how much of a piece the entire set is, reflecting how skilfully Waits has welded the various tributary styles of his art into a seamless whole. [Dec 2006, p.122]
  4. Each orphan stands proudly on its own as the vestige of an old idea or a forgotten path—proving that even Waits's missteps still manage to point in the right direction.
  5. An outstanding musical creation... that nods to almost every known genre of American music, and some that have yet to be named.
  6. Orphans is a bravura showcase for the instrument of Tom Waits’ voice.
  7. Familiar, compelling, and tugging out empathy.
  8. Sure enough, the first time through, too many [of the songs] had faded on me. Soon, however, even ones I'd given up on were bum-rushing my earhole.
  9. It's almost too much, really, but Waits doesn't release albums very often, so you can make it last.
  10. Waits may call them orphans, but another artist would call this a career.
  11. "Orphans" is that rarity of an album: one that will satisfy hardcore fans as well as the uninitiated.
  12. Orphans is a major work that goes beyond the origins of the material and drags everything past and present with sound and texture into a present to be presented as something utterly new, beyond anything he has previously issued.
  13. 90
    Orphans plays less like a career capstone than Waits' one-man Library of Congress field-recording project. [#74, p.93]
  14. This is not Tom Waits’ best record... But the whole package... is riveting, a collection that should humble lesser musicians who only can aspire to the mantle of Waits’ discarded work.
  15. This set stands alongside Waits's finest work.
  16. Compiled from various stages of his career, with varying fidelity but weirdly without varying quality, Orphans is the singularly odd cutting-room comp that serves as an equally decent introduction to a career.
  17. Orphans is something akin to taking a journey through a familiar yet entirely foreign dream-place.
  18. The collection is one of the best releases of 2006 because Tom Waits is one of America’s greatest living songwriters.
  19. The end product, neatly compartmentalized into three style-segregated discs, is about as perfect a summary of Waits' appeal as can be found on the open market, a shadow greatest hits that offers testimony to his unique and diverse talents without recycling any of his album material.
  20. Orphans may not have something for everyone, but what’s missing says more about the listener than the record.
  21. 80
    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. [Dec 2006, p.103]
  22. [The three albums] together make up one very powerful entity.
  23. It would be a mistake to dismiss this box set as a bunch of leftovers of interest only to Waits fanatics. There is some filler, it’s true, but there are also more than a dozen songs that rank with his best work.
  24. Vast in scope, rich in trope and full of hope. [25 Nov 2006]
  25. This is nightmare music--a blue-collar purgatory made of American mythology and populated by its grotesques.
  26. Waits is fearless in generating atmosphere and relentless in avoiding polish.
  27. 70
    The jumble of stuff that spills out -- from Delta blues to nineteenth-century ballads to spoken-word rambles -- is surprisingly consistent, at times transcendent, and not just for people intimately acquainted with Waits’s honeyed craziness.
  28. A long, sometimes hard, often inspired haul, this could easily have been pared down to a uniformly excellent double disc. [Dec 2006, p.138]
  29. After 30 years, Waits keeps getting weirder and weirder while still aging gracefully.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 152 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 84 out of 92
  2. Negative: 7 out of 92
  1. Jon-E.K
    Dec 13, 2007
    Its definately one of Waits better albums, wonderful lyrics shouted, sung and brawled out with a rough raspy and varied vocal, that most people with a wide music vocabulary will be charmed by. Everything from the Stories about gritty outlaws, loners and bottom life dwellers to the experimental rhythmic composition is artfully execute in his own bizarre style. I found the bastards disk to be my favorite, because it was more experimental, it had a darker tone to it, much like Black Rider had. To them who can't get over his voice or claim that he can't sing, for one he's much better than most singers out there, he uses his voice like an instrument, its the pillar which upholds the whole composition. In fact he says this better himself.. "At the center of this record is my voice. 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." Tom wait's quoted from Anti- article. Full Review »
  2. SB
    Nov 30, 2006
    As far as I'm concerned this is Tom's masterpiece. An absolutely astonishing work. The scope is massive and to say that he pulls it off is an understatement. I just don't get how people can rate this as 8/10 or whatever. This is the greatest album by anyone in decades. Full Review »
  3. DrAwesome
    Nov 30, 2006
    A landmark work. Runs the gamut of emotions and conveys all of them well. Tom Waits is truly a musical genius to be reckoned with and should take is his place beside Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan in the triumvirate of the worlds greatest song writers. Full Review »