& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & 've got more Tom Waits in my music collection than many (perhaps most) whole genres, but it wasn't until hearing this supposed rarities compilation that I really understood the holism of the project he's spent 35 years pursuing. There's not a lot in common between the loungey bluesiness of his work in the '70s, the hybrid maritime and vaudevillian triptych that followed, and the dour, almost industrial work that would eventually win Waits two Grammys. Nothing except the stories he tells.
Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards sums up in four words exactly what Waits has been at, telling stories of grimy, hard-fought lives on the periphery. As his music has evolved, he's taken pains to describe these lives -- the deep love, the loss, the insanity, the cynicism, the murderous rage, the outright horror -- not simply with words, but with junkyard instrumentation, grunts, barks and moans which communicate that 90 percent of nonverbal meaning better than almost anyone making records. With 30 new songs, this is a dauntingly strong release, but you might want to take the three-disc set one at a time.
-- LUKE BAUMGARTEN
DOWNLOAD: "Road to Peace"
HALLELUJAH CHICKEN RUN BAND
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & M & lt;/span & any credit Elvis' cover of "That's All Right (Mama)" as the song that birthed rock 'n' roll. Likewise, it was a bouncy, staccato tune called "Ngoma Yarira," recorded in 1974, that gave birth to the type of mbira-style guitar pop that would take over Zimbabwe -- and make waves across Africa -- for decades to come.
For Afrophiles, then, the historical value is huge for this new collection of late-'70s recordings by the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band, an all-star group that originated in the mines (and chicken coops) of Zimbabwe and provided early exposure to Thomas Mapfumo, an eventual Afro-pop superstar.
Don't follow? No worries. This disc is every bit as pleasurable for the Afro-pop novice, with 18 groove-heavy tunes that would exquisitely suit a hang-out party and (are you listening, James Pants?) have asses shaking when sampled with other material. Running from the jangly cacophony typical of Afro-pop to stew-thick, Fela-style soul numbers, the disc recalls sounds as diverse as ranchero and -- on the surprising and beautiful "Gore Iro" -- even a cowboy's yodeling.