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. "Orphans" is that rarity of an album: one that will satisfy hardcore fans as well as the uninitiated.
  2. 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.
  3. The collection is one of the best releases of 2006 because Tom Waits is one of America’s greatest living songwriters.
  4. A colourful, incomparable colossus, a work of breathtaking, staggering genius and no mistake.
  5. 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.
  6. An outstanding musical creation... that nods to almost every known genre of American music, and some that have yet to be named.
  7. 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.
  8. Orphans is a bravura showcase for the instrument of Tom Waits’ voice.
  9. Familiar, compelling, and tugging out empathy.
  10. 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.
  11. Orphans may not have something for everyone, but what’s missing says more about the listener than the record.
  12. 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.
  13. This set stands alongside Waits's finest work.
  14. 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.
  15. Orphans is something akin to taking a journey through a familiar yet entirely foreign dream-place.
  16. It's almost too much, really, but Waits doesn't release albums very often, so you can make it last.
  17. Waits may call them orphans, but another artist would call this a career.
  18. 100
    Astounding... More even than his Exile On Main St., this is Tom Waits' Basement Tapes. [Dec 2006, p.104]
  19. 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]
  20. 90
    Orphans plays less like a career capstone than Waits' one-man Library of Congress field-recording project. [#74, p.93]
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 152 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 84 out of 92
  2. Negative: 7 out of 92
  1. bjk
    Oct 3, 2011
    I love Tom Waits voice the same as I do John Lee Hooker, Bob Dylan and Neil Young. It's true that some people just won't get the appeal. So why bother listening and writing a review. If you don't get it, admit it and move on to your safe and predictable muzak. Waits is one of the most amazing American singer-songwriters ever. He is right up there with Hooker, Dylan and Young. This is one of his best but also highly recommend Alice and Blood Money from 2002. Art is meant to disturb. Those turned off by his voice, lyrics, sound, etc...should stick with American Idol. Don't expand your horizons. It's too difficult. Full Review »
  2. May 16, 2011
    I must confess I didn't know a lot about Tom Waits until I heard this. I know I have heard some of his songs covered by other artists, but I had never really listened to him specifically until this, and I was blown away by how good it was! He has a gruff growl, almost a side-of-the-road Delta blues voice. His lyrics are just amazing to read through, and how he uses his voice to tell the stories in his lyrics is just as fascinating. Disc 3, even for its strangeness, is great to listen to. I didn't like every song on the set, but there were few that I didn't like. Full Review »