Tori Amos

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Little Earthquakes

Tori Amos - Little Earthquakes ©1991 Atlantic
1. Crucify
2. Girl
3. Silent All These Years
4. Precious Things
5. Winter
6. Happy Phantom
7. China
8. Leather
9. Mother
10. Tear In Your Hand
11. Me And A Gun
12. Little Earthquakes

Even though Little Earthquakes is Tori Amos' second record, the world at large considers it to be her debut. For all intents and purposes, it is, considering the (deserved) obscurity of its misguided predecessor Y Kant Tori Read. Left to her own devices, she delivers a masterful collection of introspective songs featuring layered Kate Bush-esque vocals, clever and discreet string and guitar arrangements, and her dynamite piano playing.

A few songs are whimsical ("Happy Phantom") or overtly sexual (the Queen-y "Leather", "Precious Things"), but by and large the tenor of the album is very emotional, with the a cappella climax of "Me and a Gun". The Kate Bush lineage is apparent in a few songs ("Silent all these Years"), but Amos' own personality clearly shows through in such remarkable highlights as "Precious Things", "Winter" and "China". The album flows smoothly from start to finish and never succumbs to excessive self-pity, partly thanks to the strategic placement of a couple of less serious songs, but mostly because of Amos' skillful songwriting, unexpected breaks and great sense of dynamics.

Little Earthquakes is Amos' first masterpiece, and it is still just as arresting and powerful as it was when it was released in 1991. Interestingly, this album has a large fan base in the educated-male-metal-fan crowd, and indeed anybody with an appreciation for over-the-top vocals, instrumental virtuosity and songs that consistently nail one to one's seat owes it to themselves to own this album.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 06/2001

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Crucify (single)

Tori Amos - Crucify ©1992 Atlantic
1. Crucify (remix)
2. Winter
3. Angie
4. Smells Like Teen Spirit
5. Thank You

This single/EP started the Tori-Amos-single-with-goodies craze, and it is definitely worth tracking down, mostly for the three outstanding covers featuring Amos alone on the piano. Nirvana's hit has never sounded so good, nor has Led Zeppelin's "Thank You"; in fact, Amos' stripped down performance of these three songs makes the originals sound woefully inadequate.

This EP can be hard to find, so start looking for it now.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 06/2001

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Under The Pink

Tori Amos - Under the Pink ©1994 Atlantic
1. Pretty Good Year
2. God
3. Bells For Her
4. Past The Mission
5. Baker Baker
6. The Wrong Band
7. The Waitress
8. Cornflake Girl
9. Icicle
10. Cloud On My Tongue
11. Space Dog
12. Yes, Anastasia

After the remarkable artistic success of Little Earthquakes, Under the Pink is a little disappointing. Most of the previous album's exciting elements are still there: elaborate vocals, memorable melodies, unexpected songwriting twists and turns, and emotional songs alternating with more rocking numbers. Amos' primo musicianship is more at the forefront, with complex song structures and arrangements ("God") and odd time signatures ("Past the Mission"). The arrangements are more varied and fleshed out than on this record's spare predecessor, and some of the less organic instrumentation foreshadows From the Choirgirl Hotel ("Space Dog").

However, the songwriting is a tad meandering ("Baker, Baker"); some songs sound discombobulated, with disparate stylistic elements clashing against each other ("Past the Mission", "The Waitress") and bits of song strung together with no real cohesiveness ("Space Dog"); and a few excellent songwriting ideas are underdeveloped (the quasi-metal break in "Pretty Good Year").

While a handful of songs are just as interesting as those on her previous album ("Cornflake Girl", "Pretty Good Year", "God", "Space Dog"), the album leaves a little to be desired compared to Little Earthquakes. Still, Under the Pink is quite a worthy record with its share of "hot damn!" moments, and its presence will certainly not besmirch anybody's collection.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 06/2001

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Boys For Pele

Tori Amos - Boys for Pele ©1996 Atlantic
1. Horses
2. Blood Roses
3. Father Lucifer
4. Professional Widow
5. Mr Zebra
6. Marianne
7. Caught In A Lite Sneeze
8. Muhammad My Friend
9. Hey Jupiter
10. Way Down
11. Little Amsterdam
12. Talula (the Tornado Mix)
13. Not The Red Baron
14. Agent Orange
15. Doughnut Song
16. In The Springtime Of His Voodoo
17. Putting The Damage On
18. Twinkle

I'm not sure why I never got around to buying this album when it came out a couple years ago. Though I love Tori Amos's music and voice, it just kinda got overlooked in the purchasing plan. Do I feel foolish for waiting so long! The album is a lot more sparse and much less "pop" than her previous two longplayers. Most of the songs are based entirely on piano and her voice, which is contorted and stretched to all sort of emotions and qualities. Overall, there isn't one song on the entire album that is accessible as, say, "China" or "Cornflake Girl". Of course, the anti-mainstream in me actually likes the album that much more due to its inherit stand outside the norm. This album is probably best served late at night while wearing headphones.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/1998

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Wild Horses (bootleg)

Tori Amos - Wild Horses ©1996 bootleg
1. Caught In A Lite Sneeze
2. Hey Jupiter
3. Doughnut Song
4. Horses
5. From Mark
6. Putting The Damage On
7. Losing My Religion
8. Leather
9. Putting The Damage On
10. Caught In A Lite Sneeze
11. Crucify
12. Silent All These Years
13. Happy Phantom
14. Tori Speaks

Believe it or not, there are something near one hundred and fifty Tori Amost bootlegs floating around, most of which are of dubious quality and most obviously not endorsed by the artist in question. Generally my attitude towards bootlegs is pretty straightforward. For the most part, they lack quality in both sound and presentation. On Wild Horses, the sound quality is actually decent thoughout, though you can hear a bit of tape hiss in some of the tracks. The songs were taken from various sources such as Saturday Night Live, MTV and even The Tonight Show. As a result, tracks are repeated on the album and it isn't exactly the most even of affairs. That said, for a bootleg found at a used CD store for cheap, this is a decent album. Tori's performances thoughout are dead on, focusing on her voice and piano throughout. Considering the sources of these performances, I would imagine Tori would give nothing less than her A performance. Though I haven't heard the other scads of bootlegs available, I can say this is a worthwhile one.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/1999

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From The Choirgirl Hotel

Tori Amos - From the Choirgirl Hotel ©1998 Atlantic
1. Spark
2. Cruel
3. Black-dove (January)
4. Raspberry Swirl
5. Jackie's Strength
6. I I E E E
7. Liquid Diamonds
8. She's Your Cocaine
9. Northern Lad
10. Hotel
11. Playboy Mommy
12. Pandora's Aquarium

Continuing my tradition of putting off buying new Tori Amos records for months and then kicking myself for not getting it earlier, I am again marvelling at Tori's ability to constantly evolve and create exceptional music that is undefineably her own. From the Choirgirl Hotel is easily her best work since her debut, Little Earthquakes and quite the different animal than her last, Boys for Pele. While Boys was very minimalistic and sparse in approach, Choirgirl resumes the full instrumentation approach with added bonuses like orchestration on the excellent "Jackie's Strength" or more modern touches like the techno-ish edge of "Hotel". Nearly every song here is a testament to Tori's ease of expressing deep and haunting emotion. Though some criticize her for this aspect, I find each listen to this a treasure as it can seduce me into a very unique emotional place. If you ever had a soft spot for Tori, Choirgirl will only continue to deepen your attachment for her.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/1998

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Scarlet's Walk

Tori Amos - Scarlet's Walk ©2002 Sony
1. Amber Waves
2. A Sorta Fairytale
3. Wednesday
4. Strange
5. Carbon
6. Crazy
7. Wampum Prayer
8. Don't Make Me Come To Vegas
9. Sweet Sangria
10. Your Cloud
11. Pancake
12. I Can't See New York
13. Mrs. Jesus
14. Taxi Ride
15. Another Girl's Paradise
16. Scarlet's Walk
17. Virginia
18. Gold Dust

As Tori Amos returned with an expansive all-original album, after a disappointing semi-live set (To Venus and Back) and an odd collection of covers (Strange Little Girls), quite a few of her long-time followers were wondering if she would continue on her odd-even-Star-Trek-movie path of releasing a brilliant album after less inspiring material and she did. While some artists will have you believe they write their best material under emotional or chemical duress, the reverse seems to hold of Tori Amos: her most tortured albums and songs are also the least artistically successful and satisfying, as her harrowing delivery and stream-of-consciousness songwriting is often overwhelming and hard to follow. Not so on Scarlet's Walk: while the record's overall theme does focus on relationships (and geography), it appears that Amos has reached emotional contentedness, or at least stability, and her songs are all the better for it.

As Amos explored the American continent and wrote this huge set of songs, she appears to have revisited her influences, which come out in a few instances quite a bit more markedly than they have in the past: "Scarlet's Walk" has a classic-rock feel to it, while "Taxi Ride" strongly evokes Kate Bush and "Mrs Jesus" wouldn't have been out of place on a 1974 Elton John record; the wistful closer, "Gold Dust", features a melody and arrangements reminiscent of classic European movie soundtrack themes. Overall, complex but hummable and memorable melodies abound, and song structures are less tortured and seemingly random than on Boys for Pelé, for example. Reasonably understated but magnificent string arrangements can be heard in a handful of songs and beautifully enhance Amos' melodies and now-trademark layered vocals. The songs on this album are uniformly very strong, and several of them rank among her very best, notably the outstanding "Carbon". With the emphasis shifted away from dour lyrical themes, Amos' new songs let her showcase her very accomplished musicianship, and she is able to integrate relatively complex chord progressions and compound time signatures with superb ease and an uncommon sense of flow. In fact, neo-progressive rockers would be well advised to take a page out of Amos' book and learn from her completely transparent and natural use of varying time signatures in "Carbon" and other instances on the album, which is as far removed from the contrived complexities of common Crimson/Yes clones as one could imagine.

While not a stylistic departure from her classic albums, this excellent album can be seen as a welcome return to form for Amos. Combining the best elements of Little Earthquakes, Under the Pink and From the Choirgirl Hotel, Scarlet's Walk fully deserves to become a classic Amos album.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 12/2003


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